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Chapter 1 Where to Start

Chapter 2 Language and Giving

Chapter 3 Reciprocity

Chapter 4 Definitions and Exchange

Chapter 5 The Concept of Man

Chapter 6 'Marksist' Categories

Chapter 7 The Collective Source

Chapter 8 Castration Envy

Chapter 9 Is = $

Chapter 10 Value 157

Chapter 11 Shifting into Exchange

Chapter 12 Giving Value to Exchange

Chapter 13 Market and Gender

Chapter 14 Deserving to Exist

Chapter 15 Pointing and Patriarchy

Chapter 16 The Point of the Ego

Chapter 17 What Does Democracy Re-Present?

Chapter 18 The Unmasculated Agents of Change

Chapter 19 Dreaming and Reality

Chapter 20 Giving and Love

Chapter 21 From the Garden to the Grail

Chapter 22 Cosmological Speculations

Chapter 23 After Words Practicing the Theory

Index of Figures

Selected Bibliography

Return to Home Page

Chapter 9

Is = $

The need which a word-gift satisfies is not a need directly for the object, or a need to consume it. That is why we do not have to carry the things we are talking about around with us, like the philosophers in Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels. As our experience goes on, ever-new communicative needs arise to establish human relations of inclusion with one another, in regard to all the parts of the world. We satisfy those communicative needs by giving verbal gifts to establish the relations, instead of giving and receiving material gifts. By doing this, we transform what might have seemed an objective world into an intensely giftgiving world, in which humans interact with each other on the gift basis, at least in this one area of their lives, all the time. Linguistic giftgiving continues to happen, whatever else we do, even when we are acting in very inhumane ways towards each other. Indeed, if we could bring our actions in the material world into alignment with the gift aspects of language, we would have the basis for the flowering of humanity.

Word-gifts, however, have several advantages over most material gifts. First, words are easy for humans to make and store. Second, the different instances of a word are used by us as one word. This collapsing of the different sound events into one allows the possibility of the word's being for each of us the 'same thing' that it is for others. It also makes the word something which can easily be in two, or many, places at the same time. Third, these peculiarities give rise to the generality of the word, in that it can be used over and over by many, as something to which things can be related and with regard to which human relations can be established. A word can be made by virtually anyone and also received by virtually anyone.

The act of substitution of verbal gifts for material gifts, as well as for 'immaterial' things, events, situations, ideas which are seen as for-others, is a specifically human act. The word is a special
figFigure 14. Substituting the acts of substitution inserts a meta moment into the sentence. As the single substitute for acts of substitution, 'is' becomes very general.

kind of substitute gift and the communicative needs which it satisfies are specifically human needs, which have also adapted to the means of their satisfaction. Multiply the needs by the number of things there are to talk about that are relevant enough to people to occasion a single word-gift (a name) to arise in their regard, and we have a linguistic gift plenum of an immense variety and combinability, in which each word participates as one among many and which everyone in the community can potentially use.

To Be Meta

There is one abstract word, the verb 'to be' (also called the 'copula'), which has given philosophers a great deal to think about. Although it is not used in all languages, where it does exist its presence is intriguing. Its quantitative and logical transcription as '=' seems to be as widespread as the market economy. I believe that in the definition, the verb 'to be' is a word-gift which satisfies a communicative need arising from the very sentence in which it is embedded. It substitutes for the acts of gift-substitution just performed or about to be performed by the other words in the sentence. In 'a cat is a domestic feline,' 'is' is the substitute gift for the act of gift-substitution, which is performed by means of 'cat.' At the same time, it substitutes for the next gift-substitution, 'domestic feline,' which can thus be seen as an act of the same kind as 'cat.' Taking the verb 'to be' as a word-gift substitute for other gift acts, which are happening within the sentence of which it is a part, allows us to consider it a 'meta' part of the sentence. (See Figure 14.) This accounts for the present-time character of the verb 'to be,' since its referents (the 'things' related to it) are immediately there, happening in the same sentence. This act of word-gift substitution is itself a service, done for the other person. It satisfies a meta sentential communicative need, the need for a word re-presentation of the acts happening in the present sentence, establishing a relation between persons to them in the here and now. This insertion of a shift into a meta moment inside the sentence mediates its function as a definition, allowing the definiendum to substitute for the definiens.

If language does indeed function according to the principle of substitute giftgiving, it should be clear that a very large number of acts of substitution must be occurring all the time as we speak. The act is itself a very general one. The word which functions as substitute gift for the act of substitution is therefore the most general of words. There are no other words at the same level of generality. This does not prevent it from remaining humble and being used abundantly. It is because of its unique position that the verb 'to be' is itself difficult to define, but we do try to define it, since it seems to be just a word like any other. Our minds boggle and seem to expand to the whole world and contract to the immediate present, when we say such things as 'being is.' Perhaps this is because 'being'--the verb 'to be'--is a meta word-gift (not a simple substitute, but the gift-substitute for the act of word gift-substitution itself). It is both very general and does not have a group of terms at its own level of generality to which it could be opposed as a value.1

In order for words and the communicative needs which they satisfy to develop, there has to be a verbal plane that is maintained as a common-place alongside the rest of life. When things become important enough on the nonverbal plane, they acquire a permanent communicative gift on the verbal plane in the form of a word. We use that word as we shift our communicative giftgiving from the nonverbal to the verbal plane. That shift may be seen as a substitution: we access the verbal gift and use it in place of the nonverbal gift (or in the definition, in place of other verbal gifts) to create bonds with another. It is this shift or act of substitution itself that we name when we say 'is.' That is why we can use 'is' both when we speak of something that is nonverbal, pointing it out (deixis), as in 'That is a cat,' and when we use a verbal definiens, 'A cat is a furry friendly animal with a long tail.' In both cases, 'is' re-presents the shift from a nonverbal to a verbal gift. One, from the reality plane to the verbal (passing through the relatively empty place-taker 'that') and the other from the reality plane to the verbal plane, and then again to a more constant element of the verbal plane.

Sentences combine general collective word-gifts to satisfy contingent and particular communicative needs. Each of the aspects of a situation or event, taken singly, can be seen as related to a word-gift, its name. When the words are taken together in sequence (what linguists call the axis of 'metonymy'), they combine and collaborate with each other (by giving to and receiving from each other), particularizing each other to satisfy a particular communicative need arising from the situation which the speaker and listener are addressing. Together, they are a provisional and fleeting way of bringing forward some elements of the world as relevant, distinguishing them from elements that are not relevant. They provide a combination of words to which the relevant elements are related, at least for the moment.2

The relation between words and things, as well as the concept relation we have been discussing, take place on what linguists have called the axis of 'metaphor.' Here things at different levels are related to one another on the basis of an equivalence and the ability of an element on one plane to take the place of others on another. The axis of metaphor often involves the one-many polarity.3 Metonymy and metaphor work together in discourse, as well as in definitions. Strings of words (metonymy), many of which are individually in one-many relations with the things for which they are substitute gifts (metaphor), are put together according to transposed gift relations. Providing a word as a substitute gift is itself a particular kind of service.

The verb 'to be' constitutes an intersection and a passage between the two axes of metonymy (contiguity) and metaphor (substitution). As a substitute gift for the act of substitution, it is metaphor, but as a substitute placed alongside the things for which it stands (the other acts of gift-substitution in the sentence), it is contiguous and forms a metonymical succession. As we saw above, on the axis of contiguity, a sentence replays gift relations which could take place on the nonverbal level. However, the definition differs from other types of sentences, because it is constructed according to layers of substitution, in which the definiens serves as provisional word-gift phrase for the kind of thing being defined, and the definiendum then takes the place of the definiens as the constant and general name of that kind of thing for the listener. The definition is a service the speaker performs for the listener, creating an inclusive relation and giving, in the moment, something (a word gift) that may last the listener's lifetime.

Such logical connectives as 'both/and,' 'either/or,' and 'not' modify (are given to) the verb 'to be,' so as to make it the substitute gift for the act of substitution of two or more items 'a cat is both a feline and a domestic animal,' one of two items 'a cat is either feline or canine,' or for something other than the item mentioned. 'A cat is not a canine' says that the first term does not satisfy the same general communicative need as the second term and, therefore, cannot be substituted for it. Syllogistic 'if/then' ("if all a's are b's and all b's are c's, then all a's are c's") says that 'a,' 'b,' 'c' are gift substitutes for the same 'thing.' The principle of gift-substitution, shifting planes, functions between language and the world, as well as within language itself in the definition and at a meta level with the verb 'to be' in the definition.

On the other hand, when we use the verb 'to be' to describe something in the world, 'the dog is brown,' we use 'is' to 'give' or attribute 'brown' to 'dog.' The dog has the 'property' or gift of being brown (given by the universe or the dog painter, the source is not at issue). A thorough discussion of all of the possibilities of the interpretation of language using the gift paradigm, though fascinating, would make this book too long and academic. I want only to suggest some of the possibilities in order to go on to the discussion of exchange for money in their light.

The definition is different from the sentences of ongoing discourse, because it has more to do with the process of gift-substitution itself and serves a meta linguistic gift function, satisfying the need of the listener for a word she does not have. However, in a sense, the definition has been drained of its giftgiving aspects for centuries by patriarchal philosophers and linguists, for whom it seemed to be expressing 'objective'4 aseptic relations among words, instead of relations among persons. These objective relations among words are regulated by abstract laws of syntax similar to the abstract laws which regulate our masculated society.

We can restore the gift principle to language, recognizing that the patterns of gift relations among persons continue in language and are also trans-lated or shifted from the human level to the verbal. Since misogyny has blinded us and kept us from recognizing those relations among persons, we have never thought of looking for them in language. Instead, we have recognized abstract and arbitrary laws similar to those we create for the regulation of masculated behavior in patriarchy. We might ask if our laws are a syntax used to regulate the self-supremacy of each of our isolated incarnated (male) words, or if our idea of syntax is extrapolated from our rules of domination, command and obedience. It might also seem that the verb 'to be' drains the sentence of giftgiving just as masculation drains the society.

Actually, I believe that this appearance comes from the fact that the verb 'to be' is associated with the definition (which is itself originally a benign process) where the mechanism of substitution is used internally in a way which is different from the flow of speech. The giftgiving in the definition takes place between persons at a meta linguistic level through a substitution of words for other words. Since the process is different from the rest of speech, its gifts may not be apparent, and the 'over-taking' function of the definiendum may appear to be the 'fault' of the verb 'to be.' However, it is really the primordial use of the definition in masculation (the different levels of substitution and the hall-of-mirrors effect) that rubs off on the verb 'to be,' giving it a bad name. Some people involved with General Semantics have felt that they should avoid the verb 'to be' altogether, and they have eliminated it from their speech.5 It is not the verb 'to be' which is parasitic upon humanity, however, but puer-patri-archy. Returning to the gift paradigm in economics (as in language) will allow, among many other things, the restoration of the verb 'to be'to its rightful place as part of the mother tongue.

Being and Money

The same thing happens in the definition with 'to be' that happens now in exchange for money--which is a substitute for the act of substitution of another's product for one's own, and one's own product for that of another. The substitution happens even though the products themselves are particular--not standing as general, but only as particular equivalents and substitutes for the products of the person with whom the exchange takes place. Moreover, the act of substitution is not yet complete when money has been substituted for it. Like 'to be,' money forms a metonymic succession with that for which it stands, but it does so by actually interrupting that act and placing itself in the middle of it, pushing the first product away. The buyer's money often begins the process in the same space with the product it is being exchanged for (contiguous with it), but then, acting on the axis of metaphor, it physically supplants the seller's product, changing hands.

The substitution of money for a product anticipates the substitution of the money for another product, and a reversal of the roles of seller and buyer. Since money takes the place of all products as their general equivalent, it has the character of generality, which they do not. Every time it takes their place, it provides this character of generality and connection with others in the society, for that particular transaction. Every time it is given away for other products, this character of generality and connection is given away by the buyer. The substitution of the act of exchange for money for the direct act of substitution of one product for another in barter does almost the same thing in the economic realm that the verb 'to be' does in the definition. It creates a metonymic moment with what it has substituted (the products)--but this requires human beings to take part in the 'phrase' as actors. The actors take turns in their roles of seller and buyer, and this alters the metonymic succession, keeping it from developing into other kinds of 'sentences' beyond the 'definition.'6

The exchangers can, however, operate upon the plane of substitution and buy in order to sell, so as to increase the quantity of general equivalent that they hold. The linguistic axis of metonymy is recreated in another way in the addition of quantitatively and qualitatively similar units to one another (one plus one plus one) in the numerical system by which value is assessed in price. This also permits the addition of sums of money to one another, which provides the possibility of hoarding and the development of capital.

Since it has retained the character of material gift and concept sample in a situation of private property, money actually does have to be physically substituted for products and received or given away in their place (axis of metaphor). When it is present in one's hands, they are not; when they are present, it is not. And we do actually have to carry it around with us in order to give it to others, as a substitute for their products. The process of linguistic substitution has come full circle; the word has been re-incarnated. Swift's scenario has also proved true. (Little do we know, we have the verb 'to be' jingling in our pockets.) I believe that subconscious reasons often influence the symbols, as well as the words that 'stick' in our culture. Thus, the striking similarity of the dollar sign '$' to 'is' seems to me to support the identification of 'to be' with money.7

Money substitutes the seller's product, and exchange for money substitutes the act of substitution for her own product, which will take place when she, the seller, becomes a buyer. If the situation had been one of barter, each person's product would have been substituted by the product of the other. Rather than receiving the buyer's product directly, the seller receives its substitute in the artificial product, money. At the same time, this substitution anticipates the next substitution by the next seller. The whole process takes the place of the process of barter, which takes the place of giftgiving. Exchange for money creates a temporal lapse in the metonymic succession of the moments of barter. Money can be exchanged for one product and then held for days or years before it is exchanged for another. It pulls the interaction together in its different moments, creating its own social space, the market. Exchange takes the products and the material 'word,' which defines them out of context (physically decontextualizes them) in a way which emphasizes the decontextualized aspect of the definition.

Since money has the character of measure of value, it functions also as a word in that respect, on the axis of 'metaphor' (substitution). In its defining mode, it answers the question 'what is it?' with a price.8 The market may be seen as the social area in which products and their general equivalent are taken out of context in order to define, evaluate and exchange them. This co-existence and shifting of planes, and the use of verbal mechanisms in nonverbal areas, allows for the introduction of variables which would not exist with either giftgiving or barter.

In the situation of barter, one person's product equals the other's. However, both are individual products, and they belong to a dyad. They only substitute each other and, though this gives them a common quality reciprocally as substitutes, no general concept can be formed with regard to them because a one-many relation is necessary for that to happen. Then the whole process of exchange for money takes the place of barter, so that a concept-formation type of process is put into effect regarding those two or any individual products, expressing their common quality as substitutes for each other but related to all other products and, therefore, having general value.

Because of the situation of scarcity and the mutual exclusion of private property, the exchangers only want to exchange quantitatively equal items, so they must be able to evaluate them, to know 'what they are' in terms of price. The linguistic dialectic comes into play again: What they are 'for others' in general in the society determines what they are, what price they will have, for the individuals, as well. A social need for this evaluation (and for the substitute equivalent in which it is made) begins to exist as a communicative need, an element which is necessary for the communication and interaction of the persons regarding the transmission (giving) to one another of their private property.

Then we seem to need the substitute equivalent money for itself, not for the products it substitutes. What was a linguistic communicative need has become a material need on the economic plane. This has happened because private property alters the giftgiving co-munity, isolating us from each other as owners of goods. Our lack of material co-munication creates a situation similar to that of isolated consciousnesses without language. We therefore have a common need for the means of co-munication, of establishing and altering our relations to each other with regard to things--in this case our private property. This means of co-munication is the material gift concept-sample substitute, money. Exchange value is the product's value (relevance) to distorted material co-munication (exchange) in a situation of private property. It is quantitatively assessable through the material sample equivalent and substitute gift ($).

From a third person, outsider point of view, the 'phrase' in which money is the verb 'to be' becomes complete by repetition (for example, one shirt equals twenty dollars equals ten pounds of beans). And from that point of view, the interactors are indeed satisfying each other's needs, each giving to the other what she does not have and receiving from the other what she needs. Money is simply a substitute gift, given from one to the other, satisfying the communicative need that arises every time she has to decide what to receive from others. But of course, these are rose-colored 'objective' glasses. In fact, if a person's product or work cannot be sold, it is outside the market (as if it were beyond the confines of the concept) and does not 'exist' as far as exchange is concerned. It is not substitutable by another product, and there will be no act of substitution by the money-verb $ in regard to it. If her work is valueless for others, her decision as to what to receive to satisfy her need is completely powerless. Her demand is not 'effective.' Her need does not 'exist,' because giftgiving to needs has itself been substituted.

Being and the Aberrant Norm

The similar functions of the verb 'to be,' the Phallus and money suggest a connection among the different realms of language, sexuality, and economics. This is a connection which is 'genetic' in the sense that masculation provides the genesis of the Phallus and of money, as well as the phallic investment of 'to be.'9 If the father did not take the place of the mother as sample, there would be no possibility of substituting that act of substitution. (There would be no act of substitution there to substitute.) Masculation would no longer exist to project exchange onto society as its economic way, so there would be no communicative need for money, and it would not have the function of the word. The verb 'to be' itself would not become hypostatized, because it would not be invested psychologically by equivalence with the Phallus. Thus, while the connections may indeed be there, they are artificial--because masculation itself is an artificial, unnecessary and damaging aspect of the boy's socialization. Together, the Phallus, money, and 'to be' confirm a false picture, or to say it in another way, they are all the 'marks' of the aberrant norm.

Perhaps the real problem is precocious Phallic genitalization taking the place of the oral stage for children. The penis or Phallus would take the place of the breast as invested object of interest. The boy's 'mark' 'gives' him privilege, because it puts him in the 'superior' category--in a manipulative, if 'x' then 'y' way--while the mother's breasts gave to him directly. Its erotization coincides with the estrangement of the boy into the privileged, non-nurturing category. Thus, it may appear not only that he gave up the breast and got the penis, but the gift process may become identified with the internal sensations of eating and evacuating (having to do with the oral stage), while his change of category has to do with genitalization and the penis (an external part of the body). The gender identity of the boy then depends upon a polar equation with the (bigger) father, who is always in the equivalent position and is the large sample of genitalization. Thus, the boy's identification in relation to a polarized equivalent takes over from the giftgiving, turntaking and sometimes playful construction of identity with the mother. Here quantification begins to be important, because the quantity (size) of the phallus may appear to be the reason the father, not the boy, is in the polarized 'one' position. Phallic quantity appears to be the most important quality.10

Quantitative Material Co-munication

It is not a qualitative word or evaluation that is given in exchange but a quantitative word or evaluation. Money does the same thing on the material plane that words do on the verbal. Prices explicitly express material co-municative needs as quantities of money. They are served by quantities of material money taking over the role of words-as-gifts. The co-municative need that prices express is the need for a means of co-munication the sellers of those products do not have. Money is the word, but differently from language, the 'communicators' have to produce (and actually give up) the things it stands for in order to get it. Money, like male identity is an incarnated word. In its transference onto the material plane, it too has become somewhat distorted away from the original word functions. Like a word, its only real use is in being given to others; yet money can be hoarded and accumulated.

Because money is the general gift substitute for the act of substitution, it influences every particular act of substitution (exchange) by relating it to all the others. Money is the material in which the values of products relative to each other and to us can be quantitatively expressed. As such, it is like language in which words are available to express the qualitative values of all the parts of our world in relation to each other and to us. Money is a one-word (material) language.11 Those who do not have it cannot 'speak.' They do not belong to the 'species,' the category of those who do have it.12

1Perhaps 'to exist' is almost as general.

2In the definition, a continuing tension or polarity between what is said and what is not said, what is present as an equivalent and what is excluded, aids in the fore-grounding of relevant elements or items, as opposed to those which are not relevant or valuable at the moment. If I say 'a cat is a four legged animal,' for instance, I do not need to say 'a cat is not a two-legged animal' or 'two-legged is not four-legged, because the assertion of 'four-legged' already excludes 'two-legged.' The foregrounding of elements that takes place gradually in the concept formation process (and more or less deliberately in the definition) is simply implied in the use of words for communicative need satisfaction in the flow of adult speech.

3Metaphor and metonymy (substitution and combination) are two poles of language function which are also found in aphasia (speech loss) in a 'similarity disorder' or a 'contiguity disorder.' See Roman Jakobson, op. cit., Ch.7.

4We should suspect 'objectivity' as a reification or fetishization having to do with phallic property and its analogs, from toy cars and trains to guns and missiles. The boy's male identity concept and private property are two transposed concept relations among things as opposed to an ad hoc giving-and-receiving identity. Thus a concept relation among things constitutes the male identity, not a configuration of subjectivities constructed through giving and receiving. When things which have been deprived of their gift character are proposed as 'presents' to be re-'presented' the gift connection between the levels becomes invisible. The 'present' appears to have only to do with time not with the gift. However, perhaps the temporal aspect of 'present' derives from the fact that the satisfaction of needs focusses us on the here and now.

5 To Be or Not: An E-Prime Anthology, ISGS, San Francisco, 1992.

6In barter, exchange remains a particular dyad, not in relation to a general equivalent. A barter system provides many moments of dyadic exchange requiring calculations of equivalence according to time or some other standard. It is important not to confuse barter with giftgiving. Barter is still giving-in-order-to-receive, while giftgiving is directed towards the need of the other. The logics are different. The barter systems and alternative monies that are presently being developed in green and bio-regionalist groups might be considered a step towards a gift economy. However, they continue to be based on exchange and contain the defects of exchange, one of which is taking-the-place-of giftgiving. I want to be very clear that giftgiving and barter are not the same thing. Abolishing money is like abolishing the verb 'to be.' It doesn't solve the problems caused by masculation and exchange.

7Money is actually an icon of words in that every instance of a coin of one denomination is considered the 'same thing,' making it possible for 'one thing' to be many places at once, which is what allows it to become general like the word.

8Both the market and language are ways of determining whether something is the 'same thing,' having the same value for the people involved, whether this is cultural-linguistic or economic value. The determination of a price is a collective process similar to the collective attribution of value, which gives rise to a name.

9For the present argument, the Phallus re-presents or takes the place of the act of substitution of the father for the mother, making its function similar to that of the verb 'to be,' with the general social symbolic character that Lacan believed was norm-al. Jean Joseph Goux has much to say on the Phallus and money as the general equivalent in Symbolic Economies: After Marx and Freud translated from the French by Jennifer Curtiss Gage, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, 1990 [1973]. I highly recommend Goux's book for a more psychoanalytic and historical approach to many of these issues, at least those regarding exchange.

10Jerry Fodor says that Vigotsky's idea of the concept is too philosophical and criticizes his belief that the concept requires the abstraction of a 'sensory invariant.' Yet we have been describing a widespread situation in which the male 'mark' is the sensory invariant of the privileged category, 'abstracted' by our childrearing practices. Money is the sensory invariant for the privileged category of people who have succeeded in being economic 'ones.' See J. A. Fodor 1972 "Some Reflections on L.S. Vigotsky's Thought and Language" in Cognition 1, 83-95.

11As Jerry Martien shows (op. cit.), wampum was a many-word material language. It is not surprising that the Europeans redefined wampum in terms of their one word material language, money.

12 It is as if there were a moment in pre-history when those who could speak became part of the group and those who could not were left to die, in a cruel 'evolutionary' strategy. We seem to be imitating that pre-historic moment. Those who 'have' the word are privileged and those who 'have not' seem to deserve to die. From the Greeks for whom everyone who did not speak Greek was a 'barbarian' to modern speakers of any language other than standard English, those who do not possess the 'sample' language are excluded from the privileged category.

For-Giving Chapter 10

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