Both among the !Kung and Hadza, anyone with any objects for which there appears to be no immediate use are under great pressure to give them up. Many possessions are given away as soon as they are obtained, and without any expectation of return (Woodburn 1982). The Hadza's attitude toward property is described by Woodburn as "very casual." He tells a story which took place during his fieldwork with the Hadza, in which he was pressed strongly to give people hoop iron to make arrowheads. With some difficulty he obtained the iron, and gave out a piece to each man in the camp. He was flabbergasted when he discovered that, because he had given out more than could be used immediately, some of it had simply been thrown away. Since saving and accumulation are so widely and actively discouraged, and pressure for equality of wealth so great, hgs place surprisingly little value on either their own, or other people's, personal possessions.
Woodburn writes, "In these societies the ability of individuals to attach and detach themselves at will from groupings and from relationships, to resist the imposition of authority by force, to use resources freely without reference to other people, to share as equals in game meat brought into camp, to obtain personal possessions without entering into dependent relationships -- all these bring about one central aspect of this specific form of egalitarianism. What it above all does is to disengage people from property, from the potentiality in property rights for creating dependency (1982)." He believes that this level of disengagement from property is only feasible in immediate-return hg societies because elsewhere it would only damage the operation of the economy.
Movement is seen by hgs not as something burdensome or tiresome, but as something healthy and desirable in itself (Woodburn 1972). Mobility does accomplish an auspicious distribution of people in relation to available resources, but ecological factors alone cannot explain the emphasis and value placed on movement. It also allows people to distance themselves from someone with whom they are in conflict, also known as "fission-and-fusion," without any sort of economic penalty or a sacrifice of vital interests. Most importantly, movement detracts from the possibility of the development of authority. No one is bound to a fixed set of resources, or individuals, or assets. They have the ability to move away at a moment's notice should any constraint or conflict arise, and as such, movement is valued positively as a powerful leveling-mechanism (Woodburn 1972).
The Hadza are very much exemplars of this. They live in small camps that are mobile, moving every so often, and there is no higher level of organization than the camp -- which people move into and out of with ease. There is no political structure of any kind, either at the camp level or the tribal or ethno-linguistic level (Marlowe 2010).
"Fission-and-fusion" may well be the greatest method of dispute resolution in the history of the world. The Mbuti Pygmies are yet another example. When conflicts arise within the band, the individuals involved simply part company instead of allowing the situation to escalate toward violence. Harmony can thus be maintained without recourse to fighting, or some form of litigation (Turnbull 1965). This all stems from the lack of exclusive rights to resources, thereby making it a rather simple matter for people to separate when harmony is threatened. Such a form of conflict resolution is totally impossible once you get to strictly defined units of real estate. Thus the flexible group structure of the Hadza and !Kung enables them to maintain peaceful relations in general within their camps, bands and societies at large.
One can see that hg peoples such as the !Kung or Hadza have striking approaches to territory, property and the mobility that serves as the glue to bind everything together. Next we shall explore things from a somewhat different angle, taking a look at hg societies through the lens of economics and the study of subsistence.