In society today, the discipline of anthropology has made a tremendous shift from the practices it employed years ago. Anthropologists of today have a very different focus from their predecessors, who would focus on relating problems of distant peoples to the Western world. Anthropologists study these categories broad, narrow, present, and past to try and find out what exactly a "way of life" was for individual cultures. By studying these cultures Anthropologists try and deduce different methods of survival. They have also discovered a few major social institutions that all cultures have a common bond together. These social institutions are the basis for which culture is founded. In order for a culture to become distinct from other cultures it has to apply different rules and change around these institutions. Anthropologists use these social institutional changes to understand the development of a culture and their way of being. They research these processes through fieldwork mostly. By using fieldwork as a means of research they can directly observe, interview, survey, and then analyze the situation. This gives them the advantage of seeing with their own eyes what happens within a culture. Fieldwork and the analysis of the fieldwork will be the basis on which this paper will investigate the social institution of subsistence and economics among a subgroup of our culture.
One of the defining aspects of culture is subsistence. Through subsistence you can find out how a culture has survived or what they did wrong that caused them to become extinct. This is based on the fact that a group has to adapt to their environment for the basic elements needed to survive. These basic elements are: food, shelter, technology, and clothing (clothes are necessary in some environments). How a group utilizes their environment places them into one of the four categories of subsistence styles. These four known categories are: hunting and gathering, fishing and gardening, herding and gardening, and agriculture.