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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 11

Shifting into Exchange

When we use words instead of material gifts to communicate, we shift to another plane that we have created--language, which works according to similar co-municative principles. But when we shift from material giftgiving to economic exchange, we actually shift to the logic of substitution in place of the logic of the gift. The logic of substitution (which has a linguistic function) in a self-similar process, itself takes the place of the logic of giftgiving. Because of the double, two-level substitution of money for a product and of one logic for another, we cover more ground than we realize; there is a wider gap between giftgiving and exchange than there is even between things and words. (This gap is filled on the one hand with 'deserving' and on the other with correspondence between word and thing--perhaps what we sometimes call 'truth.')1 There is a move from the micro to the macroscopic through the self-similar structures of substitution and exchange. (See figure 15.)

The alignment of self-similar structures creates a sort of mind warp, a hole in the roof, a breach with a strong updraft which draws us up into the 'new' mindset of exchange. Then this new mindset or paradigm attracts the attribution of value to itself. (It is only 'new' as opposed to giftgiving, which preceded it ontogenetically and phylogenetically.)

Because of the similarity and self-referentiality at the different levels, we give at least the amount of credence to the substitution of the whole logic of giftgiving by the logic of substitution that we do to the simple substitution of one thing for another. The new grosser-grained material level is familiar.

figFigure 15. Exchange over-takes giftgiving and barter.

We know unconsciously how the fine-grained micro level works, because we are using that substitution process all the time when we learn language and define things. We did shift to a new level when we gained language, and having language has mediated everything we are. The similarity to masculation of receiving a new 'name' in the price, of being given away by the 'producer' and out of giftgiving into the new logic of substitution, again sets up reciprocal confirmations. Exchange draws us in, and the exchange paradigm takes over, taking the place of other possible models for our concepts of human interactions.2 If superior value were not being continually attributed to exchange, it would not continue to exist as such. Nor would the masculated male continue to exist as such if superior value were not attributed to him. Giftgiving, and the extension and valuing of the gift paradigm, would make exchange unnecessary. So actually, at present, giftgiving is sustaining its 'competitor' (competition is of course an aspect of the exchange, not of the gift paradigm). The logic and the practice of exchange need this attribution of value, and everyone satisfies this need, even those practicing the gift paradigm. Having been given superior value, exchange becomes the only way to achieve survival--occupying the field, pervading our lives, and marginalizing or excluding its alternatives. The social institution of exchange for money lets us shift paradigms every time we buy and sell. The shift itself becomes so common we do not notice it; it permeates our lives. Both the 'new' paradigm and the shift become natural and normal for us. The 'old' paradigm of free goods and services is dis-counted and valueless by contrast, though it continues to function. Ego-oriented people attribute value to exchange, not only because they need it to survive, but also because by engaging in it they can individually deserve and receive extra value, appearing to be self-made (the source of their own superiority). Moreover, the masculated pattern of exchange repeats their own over-coming. Other-oriented people also attribute value to exchange by logical consequence, because they attribute value not only to themselves but to others who need exchange to survive. Exchange occupies center stage, and it also attracts attention, because it promotes competition to which visibility is useful. The seller must elicit the choice of the buyer through the visibility and attractiveness of the product-in-exchange.

The substitution of giving--precluding it--makes the transaction of exchange adversarial. Since the other person is doing the same thing in a different phase of the process (giving money while we are giving a product, for example), she is our delayed or anticipated reflection and like ourselves, in scarcity is always ready to get our product for less or sell her product to us for more--even to cheat us. In exchange, when we 'put ourselves in the other's place,' we recognize our adversarial interests. A mechanism of our altruism thwarts itself by the realization that the other person needs to cheat us, as we need to cheat her. It would be in each of our mutually exclusive 'interests.'

The shift into exchange cross-validates with masculation, so it attracts some of the value which is given to masculation and vice versa. Like masculation, it cancels and invalidates the giftgiving source, making its practicer appear to stand alone. It sets the standard for the economic field and often even for 'reality' itself. What is similar to exchange appears to be not only more valuable but real and normal, while everything else is unconfirmed and uncertain (another way women and giftgiving are discounted). Exchange deals with evident value overtly, names it, accumulates and stores it as money, foresees its social fluctuations. It seems to be the crux of the matter. In other words, at this level the exchange process attracts the gift of value. We move back and forth from appreciating it to attributing value to it, contradictorily receiving from it--from the process--and giving to it. We breathe the living breath of value into the exchange process, like God breathing the breath of life into Adam. The value given to exchange by those who participate in it, as well as those outside it, is influenced by market forces and finally accumulated in capital, which provides the rewards for having and the punishment for not having that motivate the whole process.

The importance of exchange is overdetermined, as might be expected, but giftgiving too would be receiving value and confirmation from many different areas, if its gifts and its value were not being drained into exchange. Many processes can be interpreted as giftgiving-and-receiving--from sexuality to birth, to breastfeeding, to breathing, to Mother Nature dropping her handkerchief for us to pick up (in windfalls and synchronicities), and to all the many ways of nurturing we have mentioned at all levels. These can be and are symbolized in many different ways, beginning with Mother Earth and Sister Water, the cornucopia and the grail. However, giftgiving is often concealed because exchange (like masculation) is in competition with giftgiving and parasitically depends upon it for the value that is attributed to it. Exchange needs to be in the forefront, to disguise giftgiving or blot it out, and to seem to receive value because it deserves it.

Exchange actually needs its value to appear to be revealed as its own rather than as attributed by others. That is, it needs to seem to have the source of its value in its own double logic, as if it were only getting back an equivalent of what it, exchange, 'gave.' It appears to re-institute giftgiving at its own (partial) meta level, and we may be led to believe that exchange is a very beneficial gift to the community. In fact, so-called 'developing' communities often have this idea when they begin to raise crops for sale instead of for their own consumption. The initial increase in prosperity and 'independence' appear to be almost magical, but they are soon off-set by the defects of dependence on a market economy. This dependence actually privileges only the very few, while making it appear to the others that their own defects--lack of intelligence, ineffective strategies, wrong choices, bad luck, etc.--are the reasons for their failure. Blaming individuals (instead of the system) for their failure allows excessive value to continue to be given to exchange and to the market.

Since exchange appears to be the only source of goods for survival in an economy based on scarcity, it does seem to deserve all our attention. However, the system has to create the scarcity as the prerequisite of exchange--because giftgiving in abundance subverts exchange by making it unnecessary. As the monetized economy expands, it occupies the space that previously was available for gift production and consumption, making it difficult for those not participating in exchange to survive. Natural resources are employed or destroyed (intentionally or unintentionally), so that they cannot be used as a source of livelihood for those who traditionally were nurtured by them. The economic marginalization of Native Americans and the destruction of the huge herds of buffalo on the North American plains, which were the free source of livelihood of many tribes, are one tragic example among many.

By showing how exchange is parasitic on the gifts of the paradigm which it hides and denies, we can finally see that it is not the primary source of economic well-being and that, even on its own criteria, it does not deserve the attention and the value we give to it. Giving value to a wider meta view for the good of all, we can shift the paradigm back from exchange to giftgiving.

1Actually telling the truth should be seen as other-oriented communication, satisfying others' communicative needs to know about a situation in order to satisfy their other complex needs. Lying is ego-oriented. Like exchange, it uses the other for the satisfaction of the needs of the ego. False advertising is a lie which promotes an exchange. 'Objective' truth, the correspondence between words and things, might be seen as a reflection of equal exchange, outside the giving and receiving grain.

2The new naming also happens in fundamentalist Christianity with baptism and with being re-born, which is similar to acquiring a new (exchange) value by relating oneself to the general equivalent. It is also similar to masculation and almost creates a third gender identity, with its own mandates for behavior.

For-Giving Chapter 12

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