Back to Table of Contents



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 12

Giving Value to Exchange

Giving to the Market

Exchange does not itself give value, though it may appear to give through the process of monetary definition--by including something in the category of things which are exchangeable for money. Whatever is included in that category actually receives value that is given to it, and to the category as a whole from the outside. Not only is value attributed to things in that category because people want to buy them, who then give up their money in order to receive them, but value is given by everyone to the process as a whole (as they do to the process of masculation), to that part of it which is the category 'products on the market,' and to all the intricacies of capitalism that are built upon it.

In giftgiving, value passes transitively from giver to receiver, but in exchange the value of the gift does not pass to the other because the satisfaction of the need passes back to each exchanger. The implication of the exchange is not that the receiver of the product or her needs are important, but instead that the initiator of the exchange and her needs are important. The money which is given to the seller allows a product having that exchange value to return to the buyer--who was a seller previously and thus de-serves the return. If the buyer does not receive 'her money's worth,' more of the value passes to the seller--which may be another part of the motivation for cheating.

Buying in order to sell attempts to increase the amount of value which will be given to the product by others and, consequently, the amount of money which will be given up for it. For instance, by transporting a product to another location, we may expect more value will be attributed to it by others. Its rarity may even make it a prototype or sample product, and as such, highly desirable. Commerce is made possible because products are placed in positions and given aspects of availability, durability, convenience, etc.--by which others will give more value to them from the outside. The threat of unsatisfied needs also causes people to give extra value to products. Scarcity serves this increase in the attribution of value and is often created for that purpose. The creation of scarcity is euphemistically called 'increasing the demand.'

The rarity of the product seems to enhance its owner's value--and the buyer pays for that, repeating the pattern. Many products also are given value as 'marks' of (masculated) status which increases the value the buyer gives to him or herself through the exchange. All these attributions of value influence the buyers' priorities and 'marginal' decisions. Her attributions of value seem to be expressed in her choices, which are all ultimately interpreted by economists in terms of her self-interest. They are, of course, choices taking place within the parameters of exchange, with the market as a 'given.'

Being in the category of exchangeable things makes products available to receive the attribution of value from the outside. Products on the market are given more value than abundant necessities, such as air and water, or things that cannot be sold, because they are broken or defective or overly abundant. Being on the market also reveals the value that products already have, which has been given to them by others in the past--a value which is usually calculated and expressed as costs of production. The market puts things--and people--in a decontextualized position where their value is 'revealed' by substitution, and where value is given to them by contrast with what has no exchange value. Bringing something to the market is thus similar to attending to something about which we will communicate--with regard to which we will alter our human relations--appreciating its value and attributing value to it. It is a slow motion replay of semiotization on a material plane.

In the market, we alter our mutually exclusive relations of property regarding that particular product, transferring the product to a new owner while keeping its value in the form of money. In language, we alter our mutually inclusive relations regarding the things we are attending to, creating a shared experience and a common ground on the basis of shared substitute gifts. Altering our mutual human relations in a consistent and coordinated way with regard to something reveals and utilizes its general relation to the group. And vice versa, we use its general relation to the group to include ourselves, altering our relations to it in the moment, by making them specific.

In the market, we usually bring things physically to a place, for example, a store, where they will be categorized as valuable to the human relational process of (distorted) material communication, exchange, and given up. In speech, we usually alter our relations to things using the words to which they specifically give way and give value showing that those things are already appreciated as valuable to the human relational process of linguistic communication and, thus, to the communicators. In exchange, the product enters the category 'valuable' as it becomes related to money. In language, something first becomes a value in the culture, which leads to semiotization. It is socially related to other things of the same kind (and to a word as its name) and is capable of being explicitly related to the words of present communicators. Its categorization is part of its relation to the many, just as is the categorization of a product on the market as an exchange value. Value is appreciated and attributed by the exchanger or interlocutor, to products or to things related to their names. The first case provides the category of exchange value, the second provides the cultural or semantic value of each different category.

The attribution of value to a category or to the market is similar to the attribution of value to hierarchies with their different levels. Hierarchies transfer value and goods upwards. They are vertical strings of masculating definitions. The many give both to the privileged categories and to their privileged sample 'ones.' The structures of exchange and hierarchy often combine (for example, in the military or the church), where those inside the valued category are supported by those outside (for example, through taxes or tithes). A hierarchical structure channels commands downwards and the obedience and services of the many upwards, towards ever higher levels of ones.

The value of particular products is revealed by their position within the totality of things on the market, and value is given to the totality from the outside by free labor and other gift practices.1 Value is attributed freely to the market because the market seems to be the source of all goods; survival depends upon it. Other possibilities for survival are few. Scavenging from the garbage and begging are alternatives which are viewed as socially valueless ways of surviving, and so-called 'self-sustainable communities' are relatively new and isolated developments. Thus, value for the market becomes the sample of the concept of all value.

Value is given to the market from outside by everyone, but it is usually appreciated as coming from exchange, from the market itself, or from the products themselves. The fetishism of commodities comes from the denial and cancellation of gift value-attribution. Any value that is not 'deserved' through the market is considered a rip-off, because giftgiving is not recognized as contributing to the whole. If we get something free or pay less for something than its market price, it seems that there has been no original contribution to the market, through our production, corresponding to our consumption. It may seem unfair for us to receive 'something for nothing.' Yet this question is completely misplaced, because we have usually contributed to others and to the market itself through caregiving, and through the surplus labor which creates profit, as well as through giving credit to the market as a system, and to all the worthless and destructive products, politicians and ideas that validate it. In fact, enormous contributions are given free by everyone to the market, but are unrecognized.

If I buy a useless toy or breakfast food or face cream that is available on the market and has been advertised, I am giving extra value, not only to the producers and sellers of the product, but also to the market process, without which I would not have bought it. Advertising elicits the free gift of our attention endlessly. Our minds, hearts, and houses are filled with products coming from or destined for the market, as is a large amount of our time. The central recipient of our attention for most of our lives is the market and all the varieties of our participation in it.

Giving Value

Value is also one side of a binary opposition with what is unvalued. It is the doorway for a relation to human beings, because we relate to each other more strongly regarding what is valued than regarding what is unvalued. It is likely that we would begin to create a concept about things that are valued. There is also negative value, to which we may give attention, and we may have to give many gifts to counter its effects. Satisfying another's need gives value transitively to that person.

Because the satisfaction of the other's need is used only to procure the satisfaction of one's own need, exchange cancels the gift and creates an equilibrium, so that neither the gift nor value pass transitively to the other person. The stimulation of more needs to increase production is even less compassionate than equilibrium, because it creates also more unsatisfiable needs.

Supply and demand in equilibrium are a lot like question and answer. Effective demand is the expression of the need (the explicit question or request) through money. Production is the 'right' answer. But their interaction is an imitation and transposition, even a travesty of the giving and receiving, which honors needs directly. A symmetrical closed circuit is created, in which each self-interested, self-valuing person who gives only in order to receive is equal to all the others doing the same thing, and finds the 'human' valuable common quality in that equality. Market equilibrium is a projection of the symmetrical circuit of exchange. But giftgiving and the needs it satisfies, as well as needs which remain 'ineffective' and unsatisfied, lie outside this circuit though they feed into it.

Hierarchies and Makeshift Communities

The mutually independent and indifferent mode of exchange imposes a characteristic structure, through which we distortedly communicate materially to become a community. It is the hierarchical transposed concept structure of over-taking (power-over) and substitution, which is incarnated as the needs of the people in privileged one positions are satisfied by others--the many--who are kept in positions of giftgiving (so the attribution of value goes upwards). ( See Figure 16.) These many de-servers are those who are paid to create capital through surplus labor, or to service their privileged samples in various ways, providing them with the rewards which are the motivation for their capital accumulation.

In exchange, we do not give value to need or the person who has the need, but to the product that might satisfy the need, as a member and quota part of the category of things in exchange. The assessment of the product in terms of money, and the instrumental assessment of need for that product of those who have the money to pay for it, capture our attention and our production, leaving little energy for the needs of other de-servers much less those of the 'undeserving.' Communitary bonds wither and fall away. Compared to what they might have been, our communities as a whole are pitifully 'lacking.'

This human void is filled in various ways: through more of the same hierarchical behavior in 'law and order,' but also through much unrecognized giftgiving. There are volunteer activities, done for the express purpose of bonding, by which many community bonds among those who would otherwise be indifferent or strangers are created or revived. A good deal of work has recently been done2 by various authors on the giving of

figFigure 16. Gifts flow upwards.

Christmas and birthday gifts, an activity done mostly by women. Volunteer work, nonprofit organizations, charities, attempt to heal the wounds and bridge the gaps that are continually being created by closed circuit ego-oriented economics. Religious organizations encourage or require much free giving of money and of time and, therefore, give value to their own need for self-propagation. A sense of community among their members is created, because they are all giving instead of exchanging, and they are giving to the same overarching organizational need. Allegiance and obedience are also explicitly given to the priorities, interpretations and rules of these organizations. Each masculation and exchange-based ego thus finds itself having qualities and beliefs in common with others beyond its own egotism. By stimulating pheromones and loosening inhibitions, alcohol and other social drugs make bonding more immediate. Drinking alcohol socially perhaps replaces giving each other milk, i.e. mothering each other! or at least being nurtured together--in spite of alcohol's macho mystique. In fact, drinking excessively often stimulates masculated behaviors of overcoming, such as loudness, hyperactivity and physical violence. Alcoholics require special tending by others, which makes them seem to assume a superior hierarchical position with regard to their 'servers.' Such groups as Alcoholics Anonymous create community through serving one another's needs for support to solve a common problem. The community that is created replaces the bonds that were formed by drinking alcohol together which replaced the bonds made difficult by the exchange economy. The letting go attitude and trust in a higher power are healing alternatives to the power-over, masculated attitude.

Sports activities give us the shared (often vicarious) experience of attempting to achieve common goals through relatively short-term masculated competitions. Perhaps it is the sharing of the experience and its priorities as valuable that allows us to communicate about them successfully, forming bonds regarding their exclusion or entrance into the category of winners. These social institutions and habits and many others respond to a need for community that is created by the economic way based on exchange, and on the ego-oriented instrumentalization of the other's need, which creates the isolation of each individual ego. The responses of volunteer, self-help, community organizations are, in their way, gifts at a group level. They do succeed in creating community through giftgiving. Many women may become aligned with them, because they give a social location and a wider range of action to the other-tending they are already doing in the family. (For women who are still being socialized towards giftgiving, a contradiction and an internal tension are created between self and other-orientation, gift and exchange paradigms.)

The community organizations and institutions themselves remain hybrids between giving and exchange and often serve to maintain the status quo of the exchange paradigm by satisfying the needs for community created by it. They do have the positive effect of allowing space for the gift paradigm to be practiced outside the family. However, the giftgiving that does take place is often at the service of patriarchal ideology, or it is re-assimilated into an exchange context. The recent criticism of other-orientation as co-dependent takes the isolated individual as the norm, and the other-tender as aberrant, discrediting the very giftgiving that is the cause of the healing. Of course, we also need to know how not to give care when we or other people need to be independent. That is, in itself, a needed gift. The exchange economy requires isolated individuals, privileged one behavior, and many de-servers serving them. It is this economic way that is the culprit, not other-orientation.

It seems to me that the movement for radical social change, now occurring in the US and worldwide, combines a number of the advantages of these efforts, while approaching the society itself from a wider view and trying to change the systemwhether this is understood as capitalist patriarchy, organized racism, or fascist tyranny. Much volunteering and many common activities are done by those in the feminist, ethnic, peace, and environmental movements. An on-going community is created. Although there seems to be a common consciousness among activists in the US that 'all the issues are connected,' exchange has not yet been considered as negative, and much masculated, 'privileged one' behavior still occurs.

The exchange principles of equality and equilibrium are still embraced by the social change movement, although some attempts are being made to celebrate diversity and to honor the Mother. Using exchange principles as the final court of appeal re-infects the movement with some of the values of the very system it is trying to change. This weakens and makes more superficial the alternatives that are proposed, such as using moneyless barter instead of the present system of exchange for money. Such attempts cannot solve the problems. They could perhaps provide moments of transition towards a gift economy, but only if they were clearly not themselves being taken as a final solution. On the other hand, these principles of equality and equilibrium may cause us to repeat the exchange paradigm by calling for reprisal, payment, and punishment for the grievous wrongs that have been committed. These values re-confirm the principles of the system that caused the wrongs. Therefore, however well-intentioned they may be, they only reform the system locally and in the short term, but do not radically change it.

Giving the Givers

Value can also propagate self-similarities at the meta level as the gift of the giving of giving. We mentioned above that when French anthropologist Levi-Strauss argued that an 'exchange of women' between men of different kinship groups created bonds among them, and functioned like an exchange of commodities, what he did not realize was that the 'giving' of women is actually a meta gift--of givers. Needs for givers are present in every society, and the gift of the giver is the gift which, like the cornucopia, can potentially satisfy all needs. Women are the bearers of material co-munication and, as such, create the bonds of the community wherever they are--whether or not they are themselves subjected like commodities to 'exchange' or are given like gifts or decide upon their own destiny. Women often don't recognize their own contribution or attribute to themselves the meta gift of value any more than they or masculated men consciously recognize the mother as the source of giving or the gift paradigm as a viable Way.

From a feminist ('gynophilist') point of view, we can see value as the giving of giving, which in exchange value is made to double back and cancel itself out. Whereas originally there was a binary opposition between valuable and valueless based on other-oriented giving, exchange is a new kind of giving which is not for others, in its final destination. Exchange value creates a new opposite of giving (the giving of not-giving), an opposite of value different from valuelessness. Value-in-exchange constitutes a third opposition, and there is no longer a binary but a tri-polar, three-pronged opposition, consisting of value, valuelessness and exchange value.

figFigure 17. Value is given to exchange; gift value becomes invisible.

This three-pronged picture is soon altered by a fourth, prong: use value. Then the gift of value is given to exchange, and to use value, canceling out gift giving. (See Figure 17.) We mistakenly attribute the gift of giving to exchange, to the market, and what is not exchange value or has not been through the exchange process seems to be valueless. Exchange value becomes the sample of the concept of value. Exchange over-takes giftgiving. We collectively and individually give it too much importance while denying any importance to giving. We are not conscious of the giving we are actually doing. We do not give it any value.

Giving value to exchange also gives value to the ideal 'sample' of the successful capitalistic masculated male as the opposite of the mother. The gift of value and of the giver (mother) are imprisoned in exchange value by giving value to their opposite and to not giving. (And many mothers and daughters are literally imprisoned by husbands, fathers, sons, brothers, etc.) The giving of giving is not usually visible as such, also because visibility is connected with language and with the characteristic of substitution, which is part of the process of exchange. If exchange subsides (or we start thinking outside the binary opposition), we can appreciate the value of the giving of giving, and the need for it, that depends on a widespread complex social situation and not just on the deserving which seems to come from self-similarity and participation in the exchange process.


Letting money (like a word) take the place of a product (or a thing) says about the product: 'Here is a gift, a satisfier of need.' Since the money-word is actually transferred as property from one person to the other, it enters into the anti-communicative logic of the not-gift: 'For me, therefore not for you--for you (or others), therefore not for me.' Our culture nevertheless identifies this anti-gift process as a gift, a socially useful process, and gives it the name 'exchange,' by which we can satisfy our linguistic communicative need in its regard. In fact, we do engage in the process of exchange a lot; it is valuable. It satisfies our need for a source of goods in a situation where goods have been made artificially inaccessible through keeping property and abolishing giftgiving. By making access to goods conditional upon the production of other goods of equal value and their measurement and exchange, we interrupt the material giftgiving value-conferring process and cancel the bonds and community which it could have produced. We relate to exchange as the source, as if it were the mother--though it is an analog of masculation and thus concomitant to the process that alienated the boy (and the father in his time) from the mother. Perhaps this is why people feel so passionately attached to exchange, the market, capitalism and masculation itself. They bond with these processes, because the processes appear to nurture them.

The 'gift' of exchange contradicts giftgiving. The needs that surround it are the needs of a not-community, of people living within the 'adversarial' relations of buyer and seller. Though we continue to communicate by means of language and other signs, our material co-munication has become drastically altered and contradictory, and our attitudes towards one another have appropriately become fear and resentment.

For-giving becomes a moral issue, whereas it is actually only the psychological manifestation of the gift paradigm. When we forgive we refuse rancor, reprisal, 'measurement' of wrongdoing, and other psychological reflections of exchange. (We refuse to give up giving the gift for the not-gift. We do not change into exchange.) We try to understand others' motivations in terms of their unmet needs. And we try to understand the personal and social reasons for those needs, satisfying them and changing the contexts if possible, solving the problems. Shifting the paradigm back to giftgiving is a way to for-give everyone.

It is almost as if the word 'forgive' were pointing the way towards the paradigm shift. In fact, forgiving is not something we do to another person; it is a change in our values, in our own attitude towards giving and away from guilt, blame, manipulation, and punishment, which are ways of remaining in and promoting the exchange paradigm at the psychological level. By modeling it, we also give the logic of giving a multiplier effect, since others can see it at last unconcealed--and follow our example. If we can shift paradigms and consciously change our behavioral logics collectively, demystifying and diminishing exchange and reprisal, we can have a permanent effect. We should look at the shift as a practical solution for all rather than just as a moral choice. The framework of morality limits the scope of for-giving to the individual, while the need of all the children of the earth is for a collective shift towards the Mother.

Supporting the Alien Noncommunity

We continue to have to give without exchange to very young children, and to form a community with them, socializing them as communitary beings. Yet, our most important and widespread material communication with others at large, as adults, is exchange. We have formed an alien noncommunity in which our children then have to try to adapt and survive.

The noncommunity of exchangers requires many free gifts. It needs gift (surplus) labor in order to supply the reward of profit, by which capitalists are motivated to create and maintain enterprises. It needs women's free labor, which cares for use values, gives to workers and reproduces the workforce, increasing the profit margin. It needs the gift of our credence, our belief that it is viable and even 'just.' But it also needs the giftgiving among humans that continues to take place beyond or in spite of exchange, not only as communication through language, but also through all the acts of kindness, love, generosity, hospitality and camaraderie that 'make life worth living.'

The aesthetic experience is, to a large extent, the creative reception of a gift, though owning the object of art is not free. The nonprofessional thought that goes into any kind of business or work or activity is free. Sometimes bringing products to the market is done free, and the travel of buyers to the market is done at their own expense. The needs of consumers are greatly influenced by their care-giving of each other, especially through the choices of the women (and men) who have to buy the means of nurturing. The development of needs and desire itself is done free through caregiving--though it is now being profoundly altered by advertising.

The gift of value is also given, not only to exchange, but to a systemic adversarial (and instrumental, conditional) ego need to know or appraise how much a person has given, assessing his/her production quantitatively with regard to all the others. Ostensibly, this appraisal is made in order to give back to her/him the same amount, but it is actually made to give power to the one who judges who 'deserves' to be given access to the exchange itself, who 'deserves' to be given to, and eventually who 'deserves' to be the privileged one, the sample. (The privilege and generality of the sample, come from the polarization of the concept process in which it is immersed, and are not due to its having given more than others.) In our judgments about 'deserving,' excessive value is given to the equivalence or correspondence between thing and word, or product and money, or work and salary--and very little value is given to needs as such.

Even equations do not have value on their own; they are given 'values,' but they are also given their value from the outside. We have seen that equations take the place of the consideration of things in their relation to needs, and we over-value them in that role. Exchange could not exist if it were not embedded in giftgiving of many kinds and at many levels. The 'gift' of not-giving and the alien community of not-givers are possible because they are immersed in (and nurtured by) a community of givers.

Among the gifts we give to not-giving, which consumes those gifts in its processes, are our attention to exchange and our blindness towards gift processes. We do not form our community regarding giftgiving, our linguistic communicative needs do not arise regarding it, because in fact we are forming our community mostly according to exchange. Thus, we do not communicate much about giftgiving. (This 'functional' reason supports the more misogynistic motivations for our denial of giftgiving and helps us for-give ourselves for it. Guilt, self-reprisal, 'paying ourselves back,' only confirm the logic of exchange more strongly.) Exchange has taken the place of material gift co-munication, as communication with language has taken the place of material co-munication, as men have taken the place of women. In fact, the exchangers are related to each other in a very individualistic way, which is a perfect fit with the ideal of masculation, the individualistic and adversarial lonely hunter.

Of the gifts that are given by the community, which is still acting according to giftgiving at an abstract level, the most important is the meta gift of value, by which other gifts and services are directed. We appreciate value and attribute it to art, music, literature--all of which themselves attribute value in complex, beautiful and surprising ways. We value the gifts of the painter or the story teller, as well as those of the political organizer, and even the salesperson's gift of gab. They direct our attention in new ways, altering our habitual attributions of value. We love the gifts of nature, of culture, of history, of science, which by satisfying our needs attribute value to us, as well. However, by giving value to exchange and to things in the exchange mode, we continue to maintain it, directing most of our goods and services towards it.

Another way in which value is attributed to exchange, to the self-similar shift into the logic of substitution and all the manifestations of masculation, is through confirmation by reflection, by their reciprocal similarity. Unless we consciously understand its causes and negative effects, the repetition of the pattern seems to give value to its different expressions. The pattern itself acquires a certain amount of independence, and we can imagine it floating through the universe validating other masculations whenever they form.

In fact, by acting it out, by giving the pattern of masculation repeated manifestations, humanity can make it into a 'kind of thing'--a thing which could be related to a word, to which we can begin to give value, and towards which we may direct our concept forming attention. We look for a sample and try to find the common qualities of the things related to it as similar. We both appreciate the importance of the pattern and attribute importance to it. We talk about it and give it a name.

For example, we call it 'patriarchy.' By naming it, we relate it to a word; we begin to transform it by making it 'give way' to the word which is our gift to each other. Women form ourselves as a co-munity by talking about patriarchy, as I am doing in this book, and as the progressive and the feminist movements are doing everywhere, pointing out the patterns of oppression and grasping the connections among them. We must also give to each othertime, attention, nurturing goods, forming material co-munities beyond exchange. We are working now to transform 'reality,' so that we can give the gift of a good earth to the future.

figFigure 18. The relationship between products and money and things of a kind and a word are self-similar at widely different scales.

1 This situation is similar to that in which knowers freely give value to the concept, a value which instead is usually perceived as coming from the concept itself or from the things involved.

2David Cheal, op.cit.

For-Giving Chapter 13

Table of Contents

Return to 'For-Giving' Home Page