Market and Gender
An Altered Reality
I am trying to trace the self-similar patterns of patriarchy
in different areas of life, so that we can recognize them. Women
and other have-nots may feel that if only we 'had,' we would
realize our potential, becoming 'equal' to the haves--and finally,
fully human. Thus, we aspire to the rewards of patriarchy
and unwittingly help to motivate the system. If we can recognize
the patterns, we can use the system for survival while we are
changing it, without giving it value, without giving it our hearts.
(See Figure 18.)
The market is like a language which is evolving from a
past into a future state, according to quantitative (rather
than qualitative) value and having only one word, money.
The constraints upon this language derive from the kinds of
human relations it is required to mediate, the mutually
exclusive relations of private property. Money 'names' the products
again and again as values, but because of the exchange mode,
which preserves the ego-orientation of all, no further mutually
inclusive material relations can
develop.1 The human exchangers cannot evolve fully as a co-munity.
The market seems normal, 'given' to us by the way things
are. Instead, it is actually an altered reality. Why, indeed,
should human beings allow the naming process to stand between
those who have goods and those who have needs? The market
involves naming or defining with the money word, over and over.
'This coat = $20.00. This other coat = $100.00. This bag of potatoes
= $4.00.' The equation between products and money, which is
a moment of the naming process, becomes an important
for the society as a whole. It seems to be the gateway to all
value. In fact, it is used to bring some products into the category
of 'valuable,' while others appear to be valueless because they
are not saleable, or because they are free (gifts of nature: air,
water, sunlight, etc.).
Masculation has made everyone expect to be 'elevated'
or fear being demoted by being put in one category instead
of another. The moment of naming with the gender term: 'John is
a boy,' or with money: 'one pound of coffee = $2.00,' puts
the person or the product in the category of those having value
in relation to that word or that amount of money. Girls and
products which are unsaleable or free (giftgivers and nature's gifts) do
not belong to the superior category. Thus, the gender term for
females already attributes to the person the contradictory value of
not being in the superior, valued, category. Being put in a
superior category by '... is a boy' seems to deprive the members of
the category of their ability to give in the present, while giving
them another mode with something else--words, positions, money
to strive for (a distraction and a kind of addiction). The naming
of gender and the exchange of products for money focus us in
the present, but only through the mis-recognition of gifts
and overemphasis on the equation and substitution.
We give value to definitions rather than to people or to
the nurturing way, which remains concealed, in the shadow.
Gifts give value to the receiver, exchange does not--except
through the process of 'deserving,' where the exchanger appears to
cause the payment herself through her own value, her
previous production, etc. As in masculation (where boys learn to
'deserve' the name 'male'), the definition takes over, and the gift
model gives-way. The social gift, the name, takes over from
individual gifts and, because it is general, appears to be something else,
to have an arcane power. The one-many position, when used as
a privileged, phallically invested sample with power in the
real world, backs up this fetishized power of the name. When we
'earn' a profess-ional qualification, we can call ourselves a 'journalist'
or a 'doctor.' We enter a privileged category. By behaving
appropriate ways, and learning to put into practice the
knowledge we have mastered, we are able to fit the definition. Like the
boy, we 'earn' the right to bear the name. And we earn a 'living' in
the exchange economy.
A Self-Replicating Parasite on the Tree of Life
At a true meta level, we would recognize exchange as
partial, just as we would recognize the male gender (and its definition)
as partial. But giftgiving does not see itself, nor giftgivers, as
its creatively receptive others. The meta level is confused by
the different kinds of self-similar reflections. Anything
attributing importance mainly to itself is necessarily partial, because
it diminishes its other and decontextualizes itself--pulls itself out
of its context (while the reflections of the concept structure make
it appear to be all there is). Gifts require others who will
receive them. But people in the closed system of extreme
hierarchical patriarchy attribute importance to themselves through
the instrumentalization of those who are 'different' or 'inferior.'
They use others for the purpose of enhancing themselves while
denying others' importance as the source of their good. This process
gives these artificial egos completion, while making it seem as if
they are self-made, either through being nurtured because
they 'deserve' it, or through manipulation or force, or because
the other is 'inferior,' or it is her/his 'nature' or 'instinct' or duty
to give to one in that position. 'Of course she takes care of him;
he's her husband.'
The male occupies the 'sample' or one position,
requiring others to relate to him as many, reinstating the moment
of comparison and equivalence between relative items and
the sample in the concept formation process. The many also give
way and give to the one who takes over, repeating the
'many-to-one' relation between things and their names. These patterns
become self-confirming, also because of their similarity with a
more abstract meta level. The human 'one' ignores the many
and stands alone, out of context, self-reflecting as one instance of
In thinking about his 'one position,' a person then applies
the concept process again to it. Seeing himself as one alone, he
is equal to himself and to other ones alone.
The process repeats and reflects itself at different
levels. Since re-cognition is based upon comparison and
equivalence, comparison and equivalence appear to be the
all-important relations even at the meta
level.2 Thus, even using a meta level
in thinking about the situation validates the
de-contextualized concept formation process in its various incarnations.
However, the equation and the concept form only seem to constitute
the whole meta level. Instead, they are one branch of the
(fractal) tree, the trunk of which is giftgiving. Perhaps, we should say
that their self-similar structures are a vine, a parasite upon the tree.
Reworking the metaphor: it is not just the trunk of the
tree that has the structure of giftgiving. In fact, the possibility
of giving and receiving elicit a living tree: the leaf receives
sunlight, uses it in photosynthesis, sends its products throughout the tree
to satisfy its needs for energy, the roots receive and
transmit moisture from the rain and minerals from the earth and
the humus of previous leaves and trees. The availability of the gifts
of earth, water, air and sunlight allow the development of
living things which can receive the gifts. The decontextualized
equation and the concept, classes, exchange, hierarchies and the
self-reflecting meta level also derive the possibility for their
existence from the gifts that are given to them, through the roots they
have planted in the gift way. They serve living beings who have
warped and distorted themselves, so that they can receive these
abstract gifts. The whole society creatively receives the
Patriarchal structures develop in a 'culture' of
giftgiving, because they, too, are able to receive in special ways and
give again to beings who are adapted to receiving them.
De-contextualization is only a moment of abstraction used
for concept formation. It has been made into a permanent
condition of ego isolation, which serves the economy, the psychology
and all the institutions built upon masculation. Patriarchy
maintains control through the supporting interplay of
various decontextualized self-similar structures. The vine, the parasite,
is the over-development of the equation, the concept
structure, classes. It is made up of human definitional strings organized
in hierarchies, which suck up gifts to nurture the ones at the
top. Patriarchy cannot exist on its own but twines around the tree
of human giftgiving and feeds on it, draining the goods away
from needs, creating the scarcity which serves as its
The artificial parasite becomes believable and
self-validates by reiterating its own form. Exchange, as it replaces one
product with another, also continually replaces the
need-oriented qualitatively varied gift with the qualitatively
simple, quantitatively varied equation. It asserts part of the
concept process, the equation, as 'reality' while replacing the
giftgiving female with the sample male. Qualitatively-oriented giftgiving
is replaced by a quantitative naming process, which has had its
gift aspects canceled. This take-over is the acting-out of
masculation. The equation itself appears to be a gift which also
appears 'inalienable' or perhaps inescapable. Actually, it creates a
focus upon itself and receives importance from others through
Being and Having
What we are seeing here is the
psycho-socio-economic meeting between being and having, in the relation between
the word and the sample, the sample and its items, the father and
his sons, and the owner and his properties--even the owner of
male body and his body
parts.3 The masculated boy identifies what he 'is' by what he 'has,' and by the similarity of what he
'has' with what others 'have,' rather than creating his identity in
an ongoing way by what he gives and receives. Then he lets
that relation be played out symbolically, as he constructs his
identity around other possessions, many of which are phallic
symbols. Because the erect phallus is the possession of the adult male,
who is his model, the symbolic phallus--in toy cars and little
guns--lets the boy privilege that having in the immature present.
Exchange is made necessary by the mutually
exclusive relation of private property. Property is a relation in which
the many things give and give-way to the one owner. This makes
it similar to the relation between men as body-part holders,
with the phallus in the forefront, and women who are 'lacking,'
but who give and give-way to the one who 'has.'
Women internalize the desire for property and the mistrust
of giving that come with the exchange paradigm, and this is
also perhaps part of the reason we do not propose the giving model
for our sons. We push our sons away from giving and into
the (ex)change of categories and likeness to their fathers, so that
we can be sure the boys will have the right kind of identity to
get what they need and keep it. If they were to follow our model,
they could presumably be considered 'sissies' and excluded
from heterosexual patriarchy, exiled in a no-man's land, where
they would be neither male nor female. This strange
mothering behavior occurs because gender is actually an economic
identity. What we consider 'male' characteristics of
competitiveness, aggression, sublimation of emotion, focus on goals rather
than process, etc. are qualities rewarded by capitalism. The reason
for this is that capitalism is the economic way that is based on
male gender characteristics. Capitalis
Figure 19. The owner of the money is a human 'one' to whom property is related as 'many.' Money, the value sample, can itself be an item of property.
the (ex)change of categories caused by the definition of
gender, and the denial of nurturing.
Owning the Value 'Sample'
Patriarchy denies and discredits giftgiving in order to
preserve itself. The two paradigms remain consistent with
themselves: mothering appears as giving away the penis-property, and the
boy (and being deprived of both) but continuing to give.
Giftgiving therefore seems self-sacrificing, even self-mutilating.
Practitioners of the exchange paradigm appear to be giving up the mother,
but receiving the penis, the superior male identity, and the
exchange model itself in exchange. The logic of exchange confirms
itself, and the logic of giftgiving confirms the
Money takes the place of the owner as the
privileged sample for value, to which the property is related. Then
the same thing happens again when another former seller
The one-many pattern is embodied first in ownership, then
in the one-many money relation repeatedly. (See Figure 19.)
Though exchange for money is a commonplace process, it
is much stranger than we realize. We need to look at it carefully,
in slow motion, to see its similarities to language, the
concept process and masculation. In fact, an amount of money is the
value of that product on the inter-individual plane--'for others
and therefore for me'--socially. Money does the same
thing economically that the word does on the plane of
language. Products cannot get to the needs, except through
exchange. Because products cannot be given in co-munication, they
are 'spoken about' with money. Like the word, money
mediates among people with regard to something, and that
mediation changes their relation from a general 'everything is possible'
sort of attitude, to one in which something is relevant in the
present, and with regard to other people, addressing some need.
The exchanger's relation to something becomes a present
relation, selected from everything else it could have been.
Money takes the place of each person in turn, as the
'value-sample' to which the product is related, when the person gives
up property. The owner of the money is a human 'one-many
sample' to whom the value concept sample itself--money--is related
as property. As a seller each person lets the other's money take
the place of an item of her property and, by doing so, becomes
the owner of the money. We might say she is 'meta' to the
money, while the money is 'meta' to the products. As a buyer, she lets
her money take the place of another's product, transferring
the relation of ownership of the money to the seller, and of
the product to herself. (See Figure 20.)
The (mutually exclusive) relation of ownership itself
thus remains the same, while the kind of property that is owned
is abstract as money, and concrete as the product. The relation
of ownership changes levels from concrete to abstract and
back, according to whether what is owned is a product or money.
This permits the actual piece of property which was sold to be
replaced by another (or others) constituting the same value and
Figure 20. Money is the value concept sample, owners are samples for the complex of property. Money as sample is in the same (or a similar) relation to products as owners are to property.
in a sense the 'same' thing. At the same time, the seller's
relation becomes one of ownership of the abstract sample
itselfmoney. The one-many ownership relation can actually apply to
money, the one-many concept sample itself, as an item of property.
There is a single kind of substitution performed over
and over, as money continues to be given to others as the
substitute concept sample for their products (another similarity money
has with the word).5 Money is always in the concept role of
value sample for the product, while the owner is always in
the transposed one-many concept role of
ownership.6 The owner can be in many different overlapping one-many roles. S/he can be,
for instance, a father, a king, a pope, a city counselor, or a CEO
Figure 21. Money-laborer-owner allows her son-product to be 'named' by phallic money and gives 'him' away. Buyer gives up phallic money value-sample and remains 'lacking' but unharmed, with a use-value.
still own money. However s/he can have no access to the
'one' position in human hierarchies and still be a 'one' with regard
to her/his properties, satisfying in that way the need to become
The Social Nexus:
Male Sexuality Overtakes Mothering
The male gender is incarnated in the father in a way which
is different from the incarnation of value in money, but there
are many similarities due to the 'one' position. Money takes the
place of the owner as the 'one' to which the commodity is related as
a value according to the concept process pattern, and the
same thing can be said when the gender term and the father take
place of the mother as sample for the boy. Moreover, the owner
is superceded as 'one' by the money, which functions as
incarnated word-concept sample for the value of the commodity, and
the mother is superceded by the father as concept sample for
the child. The similarity of the pattern permits a replay of
the alienation of the boy into the category 'male,' through
the alienation of the product into the category of economic value
and the replacement of the product by money.
The 'castration' of the mother is replayed when the
buyer gives up the money-phallus-word and receives the reward of
the nurturing goods s/he needs. Those who hoard and
accumulate money do not undergo this symbolic castration and, in
capitalism, find a way to increase the money-phallus-word almost
infinitely. The market serves as a 'safe space' in which to act out
the childhood trauma of the boy's change of categories due to
the naming of his gender. It has the healing effect of showing
that giving up the product for sale, transferring it into the
value category and the category of ownership by another, is not
a harmful process in and of itself. (See Figure 21.)
Moreover, the symbolic castration involved in giving up
the money is shown to be benign, not harmful to the
buyer. Unfortunately, the whole process of exchange for money takes
the place of giftgiving as the form of life of the co-munity.
Then giftgivers give to the exchange process itself, valuing it above
the very process they are practicing, giving gifts to it and to
those who practice it in the same way that they give validation
to masculation, to their sons and to other males. Exchange is
a process that, to some extent, alleviates the psychological
burdens having to do with masculation and castration, but it causes
an aggravation of the problem at other levels.
In the economic realm the dependence of the child upon
the mother is also played out in the dependence of the wife upon
the husband. The wife and children all appear to be in a
'many-to-one' concept relation to the father, similar to the relation
of property to owner or things to a word. He gives them his name.
In the traditional family, the father appears to give the
money-word-phallus to the mother, who in turn gives it to others, buying
the means of giving, in order to give gifts to him and the
children. His gifts are visible and counted, while hers are invisible
However, the wife is actually receiving the support (means
of giving) of the husband in return for having given the boy into
his category and having given up her place as concept
sample (almost) becoming the husband's property. By shifting
her validation onto her husband and exchange and masculation,
she abdicates from the position of gift paradigm sample and puts
the exchange paradigm in its place. For this, she receives the 'gift'
of the husband's salary. The daughter is also given to the
father, because the model the daughter follows is the mother who
gives-way and gives to patriarchy and to the
father.7 In a context of scarcity, 'pockets' of gift economy are dependent on gifts
from some part of the exchange system. Women have
traditionally given up everything in order to put themselves in a position to
be able to receive these gifts. Now they have joined the
exchange paradigm as its actors, using the money they earn to support
and nurture their children.
Even when the giftgivers are working in the
exchange economy themselves, they often have to give their children up
to the definitions and models provided by schools, television,
and the streets, while they sell their labor in order to support
them. The mothering economic model is diminished again at the
same time that women are re-presenting it at another level, giving
up their labor time in exchange for money with which to provide
for their children, and giving up their children to be educated
by others in the exchange economy.
The large scale economic changes that happen during
wars (as in World War II) bring women into the capitalist
workforce, weakening the link between economic activity and the
masculine gender, which continues to be promoted by masculation.
in the big picture have an effect on the smaller picture,
which changes more slowly. Even though many mothers now engage
in monetized labor, there is an expectation that gender roles
will continue to be distinct. One-many social structures take the
place of the phallic father.
Television and film personages locate the father in
the imagination; the 'word' becomes abstract once again.
The motivation towards the general equivalent, money,
produces many things in its image: the programs which show us
one-many dominant men from police chiefs to fathers, supermen to
singers. Women stars also perform one-many roles as sex
objects, businesswomen, superspies. Even newscasters, as the one
visible speaker to whom the many invisible listeners are related, fit
this pattern. The dominance-submission model combined
with hierarchy and competition are everywhere visible in
our entertainment industry, business, politics, and
academia, continuing to offer the poisoned gift-apple to little
Prince Charming, providing the pernicious patriarchal models which
are no longer directly available in mother-centered
Gang relations also sometimes personally supply the
one-many (violent) paternal models which are missing from
the families of single mothers. Male sexuality, formed according
to naming and the shift of categories, over-takes mothering as
what Alfred Sohn-Rethel calls the 'social
nexus'9--the deep pattern upon which society constructs itself. I think that, in spite of
the difficulties, mother-centered families are beginning to change
this situation. All too often, however, the discrediting of the
mother, together with the lack of the father, leaves the
boy vulnerable to other, more negative masculated samples, as
he follows the maze of one-many patterns that make up patriarchy.
Acting Out Masculation in the Market
The world of commodities imitates the world of
patriarchy. The commodity-son is presented to the money-father, and
found similar to it, relative to it as its equivalent, allowed into
the concept of the 'other,' the privileged concept of things
having monetary value, and given away to the 'other' by the
mother-owner-producer (labor-er). The mother-owner-producer's place
is taken first, by the money-father, as the concept model for
the son-commodity, and then by the buyer as the one to whom
that property is related as its owner. The mother-owner-producer
gives the son-commodity away to become related to someone else
as his/its owner. Then s/he changes roles and the
phallic-father-money serves him/her as that to which the product of another
is related. Another mother-owner-producer is giving up
When the product is found equal to 'him,' that
phallic-father-money can be made to satisfy the communicative need for
a means for (altering) a relation and changing from the mother
to the father sample as the product moves from seller to buyer.
The present (mother role) seller relates her son-commodity to
(father role) money, comparing them, finding them equal, belonging
to the privileged concept of things having value. The process
of naming the product as a value-in-exchange, like the
process which names the boy as 'male,' takes over from the process
of giving-and-receiving a useful good. It is not the need of the
other which determines the exchange, but effective demand.
The money which the other possesses becomes relevant to one's
own need for the money as a means of altering the property relation
of someone else again to their useful good, in order to satisfy
one's own need. The definitional meta need is superimposed upon
the material need.
The use of the term 'labor' in English is interesting, as if
the mother gave up her son as soon as she finishes her 'labor' and
he is 'delivered' to become gendered, related to the term 'male'
as soon as the midwife or doctor says, "It's a boy." She gives him
up so quickly, and gives up her own sample capacity--in favor
of what? a word! "In the beginning"--as soon as he was
born--"was the word." He never had a chance.
In buying to sell, the phallic-father-money goes forth
in society again and again, allowing son-commodities to
become related to him, thereby confirming 'himself' as
general equivalent. His/its human owner or collaborator then takes the
son-commodity to others whose needs he/it will satisfy, and for
whom his/its value is greater, so that the quantity of
phallic-father-money in the hand of his human collaborator is increased.
The economic operator engages in a kind of sexual activity, buying
not to use the good to satisfy his needs, but to give it up again so as
to increase the amount of his phallic money-holding.
From the linguistic point of view, the interaction of
the economic communicators brings the 'money-name' into play
so that the thing can be related to a human being by means of
its socially validated general word equivalent. What is visible of
all this in stores is the hierarchy of products with their prices
from least to most, the 'sons' with their 'marks,' their price
tags, dangling down with numbers on them to show 'how much'
they deserve the money-name.
A Collective Psychosis
We are creating our reality collectively in a way which
is harmful and unnecessary. By this, I do not mean that trees
and cows, mountains and automobiles, children and
grandmothers are not 'there.' I mean that we have been living out a
distorted process, masculation, taking the images it spawns of itself
as the principles by which to organize our lives.
The misinterpretation of who we are and what we ought to
be doing results in the rewarding of 'having' and the
punishment of 'not having.'10 Masculation creates a collective
psychosis by which individual men vie with each other to be the
sample man, and whole armies vie with each other to make
their Fatherland the sample nation.
The 'over-taking' (substitution) aspect of words is inflated
to become domination, while the giving-way (being substituted)
of things becomes submission. These complementary activities
can be found at many different levels. Overtaking is
sometimes implemented violently in the family as the masculated
gender role, or through the dominance of the adult over the
child. Giving-way seems to be the role of the woman (or the child)
who is obedient to the adult's words or commands. In the
market, money takes over and the product gives-way, at the same
time that the exchange process takes over and giftgiving gives-way. 11
Patriarchy is a collection of vertical definitional
strings, aspects of which are self-similar with relations in the
market where the verticality of the strings is displaced onto
the numerical progression of price. The market's definitions are
many and short-lived, high-speed compared with the
long-term definitional positions of over-taking and giving-way that
are typical of the roles of command and obedience, for instance
in hierarchies of the government, the army or the church.
Though many short-term acts of over-taking and
giving-way and command and obedience may occur in these hierarchies,
they flow together to make stable long-term roles. In the market,
the position of the head 'honcho' is only one: money, the
general equivalent, while in human hierarchies there is a chain in
which the ones above take over from those below, and those below
give and give-way to those above--to the ever more privileged ones.
The intermediate moment between product and need,
which is based on exchange and the equation, becomes the focus of
the whole society, requiring equality12 with money for access to
goods. The masculating definition over-takes nurturing and
imposes itself as a model everywhere.
Rather than resolving our problems through acting out
the incarnation of the word, we have distorted reality,
distributing goods psychotically to the benefit of the few to the point
almost of omnipotence, according to a child's dream. We are using
our linguistic ability to name or define, to transfer privilege
onto some people instead of others, making them 'haves' instead
of 'have-nots.' The priorities of masculation have altered
reality collectively in a pernicious way, but if we understand, as
Eastern religions have always said, that this reality is an illusion, a nightmare, we can return to a gift economy the
ever-present possibility of which is the true dream into which we can
finally awake, re-creating a reality which is a gift for all.
The Long Arm of the Definition of Gender
In spite of the odd and devalued positions giftgiving is
forced to assume, it continues to be creative and life-sustaining. It
is necessary for the enhancement of activities based on
the definition--activities which, by themselves, would be
abstract and barren. Thus, the denial of giftgiving sometimes
includes incorporating some gift elements into the masculated model post hoc. Patriarchal religions do this, satisfying spiritual needs
(while diminishing the importance of the mothering model)
and legislating altruism. Sometimes masculated males create
needs which they then satisfy. For example, a group isolates
and disempowers its giftgivers by feminizing or enslaving them; then
it gives them 'protection' by asserting its phallic hegemony
over them and over other similar male groups which might try
to overtake them. Such is military might.
The good will of masculated men, of which there is
still much, comes into play long after their personalities have
been formed by giving up the gift paradigm and taking on their
gender identity. Men's good will sets the standard for 'moral
action,' while leaving aside the paradigm which would normalize
the satisfaction of needs--not only in the lives of individuals, but
also in the economic and political institutions of the group. If
the society as a whole were already giving and giving value to
needs according to the gift paradigm, morality would be quite a
different thing. Much less individual heroism and 'willpower' would
be necessary, because the good of others would already be a
life premise of everyone and of the group.
The definition from which giftgiving has been deleted
is broader than the gender definition and does not
altogether coincide with it. Because it is at the basis of
masculation, however, it resonates strongly with the male
gender identity. The definiendum, and the equivalent position in concept formation
are apparently over-valued on their own, though they are actually
re-infected by the gender definition (which they helped to
create). Thus, money the value sample and ways of dominating by
naming and definition like academic discourse or the law are
over-valued, but it is not immediately evident what part
gender has in this emphasis, or what part giftgiving has.
Other seeingly gender-neutral categories, such as that of
race, follow the pattern of gender, instituting a competition to be
a concept sample for the human, over-taking other
races, considering those who are different from the chosen sample
as inferior. Like gender, these differences are culturally seen
as physiological, while it is actually the form of the
definition 'loaded' by masculation that implies that some group is
'superior' to others, who must then give-way and give to the 'superior' group. Similar situations can occur with political or
ideological systems and nationalisms. Those born within the
national boundaries of a country may consider themselves superior to
those born outside those boundaries, even when there are no
other differences affecting the actual bodies or minds of
nationalists. The whole nation then assumes the
general equivalent (sample) position, potentially reinforcing the egos
of the entire population with regard to other nations.
Political systems, religions, interest groups follow these same
patterns towards hegemony.
The definition can be manipulated for the superiority
of those who use it in other areas of life, just as it is used to
confirm and perpetuate the superiority of males. It seems that by
being related to more of what is in the position of the
economic definiendum (the money-word), we are better than others. It is
as if this repeats the birth situation, again and again putting a
person in the superior category by a relation to the
general equivalent and taking him/her away from giving. Moreover, by providing
the general equivalent, some of us can buy and control the time
of others to our own ends. Requiring those for whose time
we provide the general equivalent also to give unpaid gift
(surplus) labor, the products of which we sell, allows us to make profit
and accumulate capital. If we consider the general equivalent also
as phallic, and so much the more so capital, we can understand
the sexual appearance of investment, putting money 'in'
something, taking it out increased, and re-investing it until we finally
reap the profit.
We should realize that every time we 'make' a profit, some
or perhaps many other people are giving a gift. Instead, we think
our profit is a reward or that we earned it. But this again repeats
the 'deserving' of the male, because he acts in a masculated way
and thereby enters the privileged category again, 'deserving' the
name 'man.' In fact, the male is rewarded by the gifts which he gave
up giving when he entered that category in the beginning. If
some primary or essential male gender characteristics were being put
to work in our economic lives, they would be easier to trace
and identify. But both the gender characteristics of men and the functional characteristics of our exchange economy derive from
'common ancestor,' which is the definition by means of
which males are privileged while being alienated from their
It is as if the collective boy child mind said, "But why am I
a boy, and not like my wonderful Mommy?" The reply, "It is
that way just because it is" becomes what he cannot beat but
must join--what he, like his father before him, models himself on
and then 'discovers' as his 'male' or 'human' characteristics. It is as
if being itself, being equal, being equal to a sample, being
the sample and being the word all collapsed into each other as
the characteristics of male over-taking by categorizing and
naming. This distressing situation is then projected out upon the society
at large and finally becomes the lebens-form of the economic way of exchange. The 'father-sample' has the same characteristics
of being, as did his father before him. There is, therefore, an
infinite regress back through the generations of 'father-samples.' It is
no wonder that male identity, which, denying giftgiving, has
been read until recently as human identity, has had such a
prominent place in philosophical discussion. It was and continues to be
the source--not of some 'higher destiny'--but of our many problems.
The motivation towards increase can perhaps be found in
the fact that the little boy's member is really very different and
much smaller than his father's. If the phallus is the 'mark' of the
male category, perhaps the boy cannot really consider himself
'equal' and part of that category, until he has a bigger member. The
need to become the concept model, to occupy the general
equivalent or word position, would imply also the need for a large
member. The child is, of course, powerless to make this happen, while
he, his brothers, his mother and sisters may be dominated
(and sometimes abused) by the large phallic father, who is
himself finally living out the mandate of the masculating definition
on which he modeled himself in his own childhood.
The child, already in a position of competition with
his father for the equivalent position, may also feel the need for
a large phallus and its economic and symbolic equivalents, so
that he can defend himself and the women with whom he is
still participating (to some extent) in a giftgiving situation from
the father and from still other men who may try to take over. The
boy learns to dominate in his turn, playing the role of the definiendum. While the mother's nurturing bridges the differences of size
by engaging the child as a human receiver (and giver and receiver
of signs) at a very early age, the gender definition places the child
at a decided disadvantage. For the moment he cannot achieve
his gender mandate. He must be relative and part of the
many, seemingly because he is too small. The real reason, after all, is
due to the logic of the situation: there can only be one 'one.'
Perhaps the basis of the motivation for violence, power,
and greed is this desire to be bigger (have more of the
phallic equivalent), so as to occupy the position required by the
gender definition. Girls can buy into the competition for
superiority, though we do not have the physiological phallus and often
do retain at least some of the giftgiving, mothering values to
which we have been socialized.13
Because the father is often absent, the boy child, who
has been taken away from the mothering model, can be left without
a model for his identity (other than the definition itself) or
a content for his category. Add to this the violence that many
large men perpetrate on those who are smaller than they are, and it
is clear that size (or quantity) can become the obsession not only
of individuals but of whole cultures. A visitor from another
planet who came here would surely look aghast at the
ever-taller skyscrapers with which businesses demonstrate their
corporate pride. Those who have offices in the towers of steel are of
course superior to those who have offices in smaller, less erect
buildings. They have more money and more power, which makes
them closer to the concept model of the father, the adult male to
the little boy can only aspire. Then again, apart from any
erotic sense, it is the erection which is different and so much larger
than the boy's member, and it is that which the skyscrapers
(guns, rockets, missiles, etc.) imitate.
All of these edifices are constructed upon the
abandonment of the mothering model. Abandonment itself becomes
directednot towards the boy, but towards those who are lacking
the phallus-word-money. Those with needs are left to die by
those with goods. Those without the phallus have to pay for having
put the boy in a different category. In fact, they have to
invisibly continue to transfer the money-phallus to him as
surplus value. Paradoxically, other-oriented giftgiving seems to be
hypocritical and certainly no match for exchange as a method for
What is also concealed in plain sight is the draining of
wealth into phallic symbols and infinitely expanding capital, away
from the needs of the many. Wealth and energy flow from the
many into the 'ones.' They also flow from giftgiving into the
market and into capital, and from the 'Third World' to the
'First World.' The illusion is that it is the other way
around.14 As in the formation of the concept, the sample receives its value from
the existence of other items of the same kind, but now there is
an actual transfer of wealth from them to it.
Punishment by Scarcity
This whole situation could also be read as society's
reprisal against the mother and her giftgiving way, for having given up
the child to the father. Reprisal, of course, is part of and
consistent with exchange. The displacement of the goods away from
the needs, into the hands of those who have more and more of
phallus-word-money, creates the scarcity which burdens
and discredits giftgiving, making it impossible or
sacrificial. Continuing to practice giftgiving in spite of scarcity
requires enormous effort and an almost obsessive sense of purpose.
Women have often been branded masochistic because of it.
Instead, the burden of proof should be placed on those
who are creating the scarcity and on the system which creates them. Their motivations are to be found in their attempt to heal
their childhood change of gender category. Perhaps in our
maternal tenderness, we are inclined to understand and humor them,
but this must stop. It is not an appropriate response to
the consequences of their actions and institutions--the deaths
of millions by war, starvation and disease and the
ecological destruction of the planet.
Scarcity has several advantages for patriarchy. It
makes giftgiving difficult so that it cannot offer a visible and
viable alternative to exchange. It punishes mothers and the
giftgiving way for having given their boys away to the category of the
father, at the same time providing the boys with the enticement
of accumulating more than anyone else of the general
equivalent. Moreover, those who succeed in becoming privileged samples
can also materialize their priapic economic excesses in phallic
symbols of all kinds. If citizens do not succeed in accumulating
more individually, they can perhaps participate in a body politic
which has more--bigger guns, airplanes, bombs.
Having this excess, while others do not have enough goods
to survive, allows those who have to consider themselves
superior and to distribute small charitable gifts in manipulative
ways, controlling the behavior of the have-nots. The
masculating definition is also used directly to manipulate those who
need positive judgments which have also been rendered
scarce--judgments of intelligence, beauty, efficiency or expertise.
These are often accompanied by monetary judgments, which
The economies and the eco-systems of the earth are
being altered by the attempt to accumulate large amounts for the
few, while depleting the resources of the many. The relative size of
the possessions of the few increases by this means. The desire
for security is also intensified by the use of the threat of scarcity,
and it may seem that without a considerable margin, even males
risk being transferred back from the category of the haves to that
of the have-nots.
Perhaps we may be excused for looking at the market
and patriarchy in this irreverent way. It seems to be a sort of
tragi-comic passion play, in which the alienation of the boy from
his mother into the category of his father is replayed endlessly.
The symptom of our psychological disorder occupies our minds
and time, preventing us from following the mothering way,
while millions of real children of both genders starve. The eyes of
the visitor from outer space would fill with tears of pity for
this excellent species which has gotten itself into so much trouble
for what, after all, begins as a small and innocent mistake.
As for me dear reader, I howl in the night.
If you understand, maybe you do, too.
1We have been talking about exchange as
definition. Because there is only one material word, money, I am now talking about naming. Several of the functions
of the definition are collapsed into each other in monetized exchange.
2The class of all de-contextualized classes (classes taken out of context) is a
de-contextualized class. However, a true meta viewpoint would be logically broader
and would include giftgiving, thus including the different (the other), bringing
about contextualization and destroying the de-contextualized class. The patriarchal view
of thinking over-emphasizes classes and under-emphasizes the giftgiving context, just
as patriarchal society over-emphasizes classes, and under-emphasizes the gift
paradigm. A critic might say that comparing exchange and giftgiving is like comparing
apples and oranges. My point is that these apples only exist within a context of
oranges, which also give to them.
3Jacques Lacan described what he called the 'mirror stage,' a level of integration
of the child's body parts image greater than that appropriate for his age. I
would speculate it is the relation of ownership that integrates them as 'his' and that
their fracturing the relation to the male sample as reflected in exchange. See
Ellie Ragland-Sullivan, Jacques Lacan and the
Philosophy of Psychoanalysis, University
of Illinois Press, Chicago, 1986. Kenneth Wright, Vision and Separation Between Mother and
Baby, Jason Aronson Inc., Northvale, New Jersey, 1991.
4In addition to all this, mothers who are afraid of the father's competition with
a nurturing son for their affection, may also be motivated to make him similar to
the father, so that the father will not destroy him. Like
Moses' real mother, they deny that he is theirs, give him to someone more powerful, and stay nearby to take care
of and serve him.
5 Money is only substituted itself when, having been 'invested,' it returns
increasedanother transposed masculationperhaps a boy being born from the head of
Zeus. The capi-talist is the one who makes this happen.
6Ownership is perhaps more like Vigotsky's 'family name' complex than like
the concept; since the properties owned are diverse, they have no common
quality, except that of being properties of that 'one.'
7The daughter might be considered as the 'good' or
'use value,' which is once more part of the nurturing way after the buyer has given up the phallic equivalent.
She could also be considered the good which is not exchangedat least until she marries.
8The norm-ality of exchange is reinforced by the ascendancy of the verbal over
the nonverbal in the society, and in childhood, since the child is learning
language precisely during the Oedipal period during which masculation is occurring.
The possibility of the precocious genitalization of boys is stimulated by the
importance given to language and naming and the transfer of the boy from the mother's
category to the father's (or at any rate the sample male's). Economic exchange for money
then actually retraces and reinforces the Oedipal situation, as well as this moment
of genitalization. Ex-change is really a sex-change.
9Alfred Sohn-Rethel, Intellectual and Manual Labor:
A Critique of Epistemology, MacMillan, London, 1978. Sohn-Rethel thinks that the
'exchange abstraction' deriving from the exchange of commodities is the
social nexus. I believe that commodity exchange derives from masculation, which is therefore the basis of
the exchange abstraction.
10Even the Bible says, "To him that has much shall be given."
11At another stage of the same process, exchange for money takes over and
barter gives way. There are at least these three layers of overtaking and giving way
involved in exchange for money. We can tell they are still there because, at any time, we
can revert to the 'previous' stage according to the will of the exchangers. We can
barter instead of exchanging for money, or we can decide not to require an exchange
and simply give the product to the person with the need.
12I believe that social change movements make too much of
equality as a criterion, because they do not realize that its use in the market broadcasts its
validation everywhere. Instead, I think we should celebrate qualitative diversity.
Connections, Carol Gilligan, Nona P. Lyons, and Trudy J.
Hanmer, editors, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 1990.
14The 'gifts' from the
'First World' to the 'Third World' contain hidden
exchanges and actually return to the 'First World' many times over. See, for example, the
work of the DAWNE collective and Gita Sen and Karen
Grown, Developmental Crisis and Alternative
Visions, Monthly Review Press, New York, 1987; Susan
George, How the Other Half Dies, Allanheld, Osmun & Co., Montclair, 1977; and Vandana
Shiva, Staying Alive, Zed Books, London, 1989.