The daily evidence seems incontrovertible, even to those of us who live in apparent comfort. Televised and printed images of poverty and famine are constant reminders of the precariousness of the human condition, justifying Jean-Paul Sartre’s confident assertion that “the whole of human development, at least up to now, has been a bitter struggle against scarcity.” 1 We are accustomed to turning these discrete images into generalized observations of this sort. When we see a picture depicting hunger in the Third World or the American inner city we may attribute it at one level to a specific cause: to a bad harvest or a decline in commodity prices; to government policies or to inherent laziness; to ecological damage or the effects of war. But at the same time we see this picture against a backdrop of experiences from our decently fed daily lives: with the latest audio or video equipment we want but cannot afford; with the long lines of cars endured during a gasoline shortage; with the time we wished we had to do something we enjoy doing. The result is that we see the picture not only as depicting the experience of a particular people in particular circumstances, but also as expressive of something general: of scarcity.