Gift economies and inequality

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Joined: 18-03-09
Aug 28 2012 10:30
LBird wrote:
so why not, in a discussion about 'gift economies', differentiate between 'presents' (objects of affection within personalised relations between comrades and communes) and 'gifts' (objects of power within political relations between competitors for social power)?

The problem with this is that there are many forms of exchange that combine these two types of relation in ways that mean that this simple dichotomy cannot really be sustained. There are also ways in which the various kinds of 'presents' or 'gifts' share key qualities that differentiate them from eg. commodities. I do agree that, unless one is discussing 'gifts' at a rather high level of abstraction (i.e. in terms of general processes of objectification, or in terms of a generic contrast between gifts and commodities oriented towards an analysis of the commodity form), the category of 'gift' needs to be unpacked into much more specific forms of exchange relation. But I don't think you'd end up with a binary of 'gift' vs 'present' if you did this.

Still, given that we live in a commodity-dominated society based around processes of alienation, the category of 'gift' serves a certain contrastive function -- even if it is by no means synonymous with egalitarian or communistic relations.

Joined: 21-09-10
Aug 28 2012 10:39

Kambing, just a quick post to acknowledge your response, and thank you for your comments.

Although I still think that throwing 'gift' and 'present' into sharp relief as an aid to political understanding is useful, I'm leaving the thread now due to unwanted attention, so I won't elaborate further. Thanks again, and feel free to criticise my thoughts further.

Joined: 4-07-12
Aug 28 2012 15:49

I don't know about anybody else here, but to me Libertarian Communism means any cultural and political way of life, or system, if you prefer, that emphasizes a collaborative, cooperative, sustainable use of this planet we all share, while obviating the need for cops and soldiers. In that light, money isn't just evil because of it's social and economic stratification effects, it is also an inherently resource exploitive force. How such a system would function is open to debate - quite obviously - but whether it's a strictly egalitarian sharing way, or will incorporate some type of gift giving, isn't exactly the point, as sabotage pointed out.

If you present it that way, 'others' will still think you're daft, but at least they can understand the goal, and might even be lured into discussing how something like that might work, even if they think in practice, it's total lunacy.

Just a thought. Now, what's up with this debt strike thing? Is it going anywhere?

Joined: 6-01-07
Apr 3 2019 12:51

Despite a few rather irritable tones to some of the exchanges on this thread I thought it, and particularly Kambing's contributions, were useful.
I see that this spgb contributor has another go at trying to contrast a 'gift' economy or society to a socialist or communist society contrasting various historical and current forms of the gift to the capitalist commodity form as here:
But caution is needed in using some of these historical examples as being equivalent to the conditions likely to prevail in communism as this text makes clear: