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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 20

Giving and Love

I think the phrase 'carnal knowledge' is well-taken. Much of our interpersonal experience of love and sex is involved with knowing and perceiving the other person physically, as well as spiritually, according to the giving and receiving 'grain.' This knowledge requires or invites an other-orientation, which is partly the basis for the experience of 'losing one's self,' well-known in the literature of love. In a society which is made in the image of the exchange paradigm, many of us have learned not to be other-oriented so love can be an overwhelming experience, an excursion into the gift economy, a concentration on the other, a chance to re-perceive the world, re-create a human society of two.

We bond, forming our relations to each other, in regard to our new gift perceptions. Like Adam naming the creatures of Eden and talking about them with Eve, we become conscious of each other's particularities and universalities, and we become conscious of each other's consciousness of them. Love alters our individual attitudes towards other-orientation, at least for the time being. We begin to need each other and to want to give to each other. We even begin to need the other's need for us, our giving of ourselves becoming linked to the other's desire. Perhaps it is this other-oriented aspect of love that makes us sing about it, talk about it, long for it so much in this society. "Love is the way," say preachers and peace activists. The only ones that don't say it are economists (and therapists worried about co-dependency).

There is a part of our true minds that is telling us what to do, using our relationships to tell us. I guess it is hard for that part to generalize. It did not know that its context was really economic. It tells us, "Give, change the ego, nurture the other person abundantly." Freud (and women writers like Nancy Friday) who found that we look for relationships with our mothers in the men we marry have hit on a glimmering of the gift economy which is usually nipped in the bud.

In fact, the love relationship, by causing 'other-orientation,' may make a man behave in a more nurturing way than he ever has before, putting his ego aside, acting like a mother would with her child (love ya, Baby!), especially if the mother were also used to living in the exchange economy and had taken on its values. The feeling of bliss that comes from reciprocal nurturing (turn-taking--not exchange--because each is other-oriented) is the experience of the gift economy between adults, highlighted by the fact that they are a society of two, since nurturing is not the economic way chosen by the world they live in. Indeed, their relationship may seem to be, and is, a pocket of blessedness in a world gone mad.

Like other instances of the gift economy, the society of two is soon altered in its nature and chance for survival by the alien character of its surroundings. Like a tropical flower growing in a northern climate, it needs special circumstances, hard work, attentiveness, protection--all of which make the feeling of warmth and abundance drain away, so that the tender plant feels (correctly) that it is in the wrong environment. But again, this is not the 'fault' of love, but of the scarcity of love and the scarcity of goods created by masculation and exchange in the world at large. The more cruel acts that take place in the world, the more hostile is the environment for the nurturing relationship between two adults.

In order to survive in a situation of scarcity, the lovers adapt. They typically divide the labor heterosexually; one enters fully into the exchange paradigm, while the other remains nurturing, even when she also works in the exchange economy. Their egos alter accordingly. Women give our greatest gift; we give birth to our children, and then we practice the gift paradigm with them because they impose it. We are forced by their real dependence to adapt to an other-oriented way. Male partners enter into the hierarchy of competition for scarce goods but do not usually have the psycho-economic saving grace of having to nurture the children. Participation in the exchange economy becomes the only technique for survival and women, therefore, begin to reinforce psychologically in their partners (and sometimes in themselves) those characteristics which help to succeed there. They postpone their love, put aside their nurturing of each other, until some more convenient time. Finally, they may think the experience of love was childish, an illusion. It rightly reminded them of their childhood because the relation between mother and child is the only other major experience of the gift economy most of us know.

Giving Embedded in Exchange

With the system of the double burden, many women perform both gift and exchange roles. They are paid less for comparable work--not only to demonstrate their inferiority and the inferiority of the gift paradigm, but to keep them needing the money which men provide for them with the results of their exchange economy activity. This support seems to slip into being a sort of payment for services. In other words, a woman's free nurturing, both of her mate and of her children, is 'compensated' by the money given to her by her husband. The free nurturing is thus corralled into the exchange paradigm, captured by it, almost re-framed as exchange. However, the money that women receive is usually barely enough to buy the means of nurturing for the family. In a situation of scarcity, women's free labor seems (and sometimes is) a kind of slavery. The opposite of slavery seems to be working for pay, while instead it would be liberation to freely give in a situation of abundance.

Giving in abundance is an option for wealthy people--where the husband works in the exchange economy to make abundant money, and the wife (who does not work in that economy) has time to practice nurturing on a wider scale, doing volunteer work or providing charity, something which her husband may also do. Unfortunately, charity of this kind maintains the status quo by alleviating problems, while allowing their causes to remain the same. Moreover, volunteerism which depends upon patriarchal capitalism makes it seem as if the exchange mode were necessary to support giftgiving.

Charity validates the exchange mode by considering it as its pre-requisite. Even the successful examples of cause-related marketing have this defect. Instead, we need to change the whole context by shifting to the gift paradigm for all, and we need to use our gifts to make that happen.

While it is good for us psychologically to nurture others from a situation of abundance, in the present situation of generalized scarcity giftgiving can seem unusual, even saintly. This can lend itself to ego trips of various kinds by the givers, as well as to a lack of respect for the recipients. Considering the exchange paradigm and its logic as the root of the problem depersonalizes the actions of the givers and of the receivers. Need satisfaction should not replay the scenario of having and not-having, better and worse. Instead it is part of a more workable and human way, good for the personality and material well-being of the giver and the receiver, freed from the humiliation and egomania of the defense of the exchange paradigm. It is the logical and co-munitary thing to do.

The kinds of jobs which are available in our society do not allow for the development of the free giving mode and mentality. The whole society validates the production of goods and services for exchange, together with the evaluation of human beings according to the monetary standard. Within our personal relationships, in our hands-on experience, we can experiment with the social currents that are flowing through us. We may do a lot of 'giving' of ourselves to each other, because we are not doing it socially on a material plane. Those who have some material wealth must at least unconsciously feel the pull of the needs of others. Starving people look at us from the TV screen. We watch the homeless, drunk and cold, lying in doors of buildings.

There is a true, if cynical, point of view about giving which says, "If I give everything I have to someone else, s/he will just be as ego-oriented as I have been." If the exchange paradigm continues to be validated, the 'haves' will continue to oppress the 'have-nots.' If a slightly more other-oriented person gives her money to someone else, that person may very likely become more ego-oriented. The secret is to give in order to validate the gift paradigm. Any need-satisfying behavior, if it is done with consciousness of the paradigm of which it is a part, does help in that validation.

Sexual Giving

I think that we may be trying to practice co-municative giftgiving in our love relationships, perhaps even through promiscuity. We give ourselves sexually to those who seem to need us, because we are pushed by our subconscious to give while, at the same time, we are either living in material scarcity or have been convinced that giving materially is not a viable thing to do. Giving ourselves sexually allows us to feel the emotions of giving and receiving 'on our own skin.' It allows us to do something for somebody else, satisfy a need without actually transferring goods from one to the other. In fact, it can seem very embarrassing to give and receive goods while sexual giving and receiving is validated as a 'normal' desire. Promiscuous sex allows us to be other-oriented towards a number of people, giving to them on that plane, while society does not allow us to give to them on the plane of material need.

We live the problems of our society through our interpersonal relations. For example, women over-give to our children or continue to give to abusive husbands. I think we realize unconsciously that giving is the way. What we don't see is that we are often giving in the wrong places, and on the wrong levels, and that we cannot do it effectively until it is validated socially as the Way to behave instead of exchange. In fact, I think there is a confusion between material nurturing and love--which makes us think that we are loving people any time we are being other-oriented towards them. Any need we satisfy seems to be giftgiving, even if that is a batterer's need to hurt us. But perhaps the reason for this is the confusion between the other-orientation that takes place in sex and love and the material other-orientation that would be present in the right practice of the gift paradigm. Even now, we could begin to practice it in giving our time, money and energy to change the structures of oppression. If we were to shift to the gift paradigm, the whole society would be other-oriented and needs would be satisfied by others, so we would continually hear the call of the needs of others.

But in that case, many other people would be satisfying needs, so even the needs of our mates might be very different from what they are now. Being able to practice material other-orientation outside our immediate families and for the good of all would allow us to practice better psychological orientation towards our loved ones, as well. Receiving from others-in-general as well as giving to them would allow more bonding with them, and we would not be dependent on sex for meaningful 'co-munication.' The quest for a 'meaningful' life is well-named, since it may be seen as a life which attributes value by giving and receiving, and value is, therefore, bestowed on it, as well.

As it is, we are particularly dependent on each other in our relationships, because this is the only place most of us can do giving and receiving, practicing the gift paradigm, even if imperfectly. It is, therefore, the most 'human' of our behaviors, and we become very attached to it. Abandonment seems to be a threat to our humanity. The giving and receiving that we do sexually, in which different needs spring up in our bodies as we proceed and as we satisfy them for each other, creates a common ground for the community of two, which is hard to renounce.

Our selves grow through this community, much as our selves grow in our original families where we become differentiated as individuals on the basis of our common ground with others. The masculated or exchange-based ego is more likely to be abandoning, adversarial, denying connection and intimacy, and using the other for her nurturing reinforcement of its sense of importance. Unfortunately, the socialization of men away from nurturing allows this kind of destructiveness of the sexual co-munity. Seduce and abandon ("love 'em and leave 'em") is the macho disease, sometimes even when it is women who are doing the leaving. A desire to dominate, which functions well in the competitive exchange economy, can be carried out in personal relations by force, abandonment or mental cruelties, such as disparagement and non-participation.

The Nurturing of Competition

The gift and the exchange paradigms function like two environments of nature existing side by side, and what is adaptive behavior in one is destructive in the other. Moreover, the environment of 'survival of the fittest' is seen as the support of the nurturing family environment. The families of the fittest in the exchange economy survive. This is an illusion because it is the existence of the competitive environment which threatens the nurturing way and burdens it to extenuation. In fact, nurturing is sustaining the competitive environment, not vice versa. It cannot be abolished without destroying the competitive environment also, because the way of exchange needs free gifts in order to continue to exist.

The competitors are themselves provided by the nurturers, and many of their competitive advantages come from the kind of nurturing they have received. Many of their prizes and rewards also come from the nurturers, including the nurturers themselves. Beautiful and sexy women or 'good wives' are often seen as the prizes of successful men. At the individual level, none of this appears connected to the rest, and the interactions seem to be due to personal differences, choices, and characteristics. Taking a broader view, however, we can see that the two kinds of behavior are tied together, bound by the chains of their complementarity. It is advantageous to the competitive group that the relation not be seen from a perspective which would allow the nurturing group to consciously liberate itself. Indeed, like many parasites, the competitive group puts on a mimetic exterior, appearing to be doing the nurturing itself.

Value Accents

The two paradigms are also distinguished from each other because the capacity to define and all its transpositions in the activities of measuring and assessing value, mediating private property by substituting one thing for another, and establishing equivalencies between different kinds of things which are to be exchanged, are seen post hoc as the province of masculation.

Women are said to be 'immersed in experience'--and, in fact, experience may be seen as taking place according to the giving grain and in the gift mode. There is a sense in which all our perceptions and experiences come to us free. Though we may have to exert ourselves to have one kind of perception instead of another (walk out the door to see the sun shining), if our senses are functioning correctly, there is always something present to be perceived. The structure of our world picture and our needs will determine which of these perceptions we pick out to use, which 'givens' we focus on. Much of the world picture depends upon past experience and practice of one paradigm or the other as well as upon 'value accents' transmitted through language and culture.

Women are relegated by men to the side of life which has to do with perception and materiality. Men describe us to each other, sharing us as their common ground through language while we are stereotypically immersed in 'feeling.' I was talking earlier about women as occupying the 'shadow,' the side of mat(t)er, and the many. We have this to fall back on. It is the border of the gift economy, as language is the border of the exchange economy.

But the side of mat(t)er and the many is lost in the haze, while language is focused upon. Beneath the surface of language and the givens of perception lies the free labor of the centuries, consisting of women's free maintenance of things, as well as all the unpaid 'other-tending' labor of the society as a whole. All the free gifts of the past determine what specific things we perceive--that is, what parts of material culture have persisted through time to make up our world. We may also consider ourselves as gifts given by others, and our children as our gifts. Our 'other-tending' egos are less self-similar than masculated ones, more 'transparent,' straightforwardly embracing the other without the ego filter. We are the children who remember our mothers (and the mothers who are remembered by our children).

Our 'male and female' sides, at least in the specificity with which they appear to us in Western society, are really a transposition of the masculated exchange ego and the 'other-tending' self as products and processes of the exchange economy and the gift economy. Since the two economic modes exist side by side in society, the ego structures they promote can be internalized together. This creates a third kind of personality structure which, while it may be seen as transitional between one kind of economy and another, and may have some of the advantages of each, is caught in numerous paradoxes. The 'giftgiver within' bonds by attending to needs, and strong emotions may arise when the needs cannot be met. In contrast, the masculated ego seeks independence and dominance. It is not a perfect fit internally or externally.

The masculated ego and the contents of its thought may be directed towards gain for itself or for its family, as an extension of itself. It considers its experience as 'objective,' without the gift character but also without the duty of maintenance towards its surroundings. It is less conscious of the needs in the environment, from the unmade bed to the hungry child to the toxic waste dump. Much of its time is spent focused on language, bureaucracy, instruments of a social or material kind for causing others to do something, or to give so it may receive. It ignores the same things in itself. Its own needs must, therefore, be satisfied by others, as in the stereotype of the absent-minded professor. Without an external nurturer, the giftgiving side of this personality may finally have to turn around and take care of its own masculated ego. Thus, the remaining other-oriented parts of the personality are turned towards the 'other within,' and the person becomes even more self-centered.

For those who are socialized into giftgiving, the self which develops is already oriented towards others, so that the nurturing aspect is included as part of the ego which develops through participation in the exchange mode. Perhaps this accounts for the popularity of me-first therapy among women. From co-dependency groups to assertiveness training, our exchange-based society is teaching us to put ourselves first. Fortunately, since we have been brought up to be 'other-tending,' the gift way remains part of the self we assert. It may seem functional to the status quo to do away with giftgiving and its ideals and ideas, but the exchange economy would really be destroyed by doing so.

There are, of course, pathological cases of other-orientation, but ego orientation is much more likely to be pathological. Socially, it is having pernicious effects for all the creatures of the planet, while it is being upheld as the model of health. None of us have a clue that we are doing all this because we do not recognize giftgiving as a paradigm at the same level as the exchange paradigm. In fact, it is the comparability of the paradigms that we should be asserting, not the equality of the sexes.

Equality deriving from masculation and exchange is equality preparatory to quantification, or quantitative equality. Need-direction emphasizes qualitative variety. Paradoxically, the gift economy brings forth individual differences more because it is not measuring them on a single quantitative value standard. If we focus on the gift economy as a paradigm instead of demeaning it and particularizing its manifestations, we can also use it to shed light on what the exchange paradigm is doing. We could be reading such statements as, "Women are as good as men," as meta statements saying, "The gift paradigm is as good as (or better than) the exchange paradigm."


Among the other characteristics of the exchange paradigm is the capacity to pass judgment, putting something in one category or another. Like marriage customs in which women acquire a man's name, women's actions and desires are judged by the masculated ego as good or bad, appropriate or inappropriate, etc. Women accept this judgment because of our (otherwise positive) other-orientation. Judgment of our own qualities is not something which is easy to do for ourselves, though perhaps the internalized ego can do it for us. "Am I intelligent? Am I beautiful? Am I good?" We may become endlessly preoccupied with these assessments, becoming ego-oriented even about defining our other-orientation. Our capacity to look at ourselves through the eyes of the other lets us seek his definition of us and then judge ourselves as he would.

Playing out the definition, as the definiens we serve a man's definiendum of ourselves trying to de-serve his positive word. We confuse self-deprecation with 'humility' and allow stereotypes to lead us as self-fulfilling prophecies. The division between words and things, mind and body, is absorbed by us internally--even though, as participants in the exchange economy, we may now be living the division somewhat differently. Women used to give up on abstract linguistic work, like mathematics or finance, because they considered it not feminine. Even now, we may strive to merit our own positive judgment of ourselves, measuring our value on a standard created by men for women, by masculated egos for giftgivers.

A principle of giftgiving is that it not be done to seek rewards. Thus, if we strive to be judged by others or even by ourselves as 'good' or 'beautiful,' we are bordering on the exchange area. However, others may judge us freely in a positive way, and this may seem to come as a gift for which we can be grateful. We sometimes receive the gift of the judgment 'good' or 'beautiful,' though we haven't striven for it. We long for this 'free' judgment from others, because of the difficulty of maintaining ourselves in the gift logic internally. Attempting to live up to our own standards sets up a self-manipulative dynamic.

Perhaps the self-criticism that many of us indulge in allows us to try to direct ourselves through our own judgment, while remaining in the gift paradigm. If we punish what we do 'wrong,' it may seem less like acting for a reward than if we were to judge ourselves as 'good.' The ego trip seems to be shunned by many good people. Perhaps it seems that, by avoiding that masculated behavior, we can remain in the gift paradigm. Actually, belonging within one paradigm or the other is probably determined, not by self-domination or manipulation, but by many repeated actions, motivated in one or the other direction at many different times and situations and on different levels. The external and the internal contexts determine the success and practical validation of these actions.

Needing To Be Needed

Women may try to bring forward in ourselves the characteristics that men would value, enhancing our 'attractiveness' so that they will pay attention to us, use our gifts and give us the gift of their positive judgment of us. In fact, we used to have the specter of the 'old maid' before us as someone whose gifts remained unused, perhaps because she was not good enough. No one needed her. In fact, we need the need of others so that we can practice the gift economy towards them, whether by nurturing them with various kinds of goods, or 'giving ourselves' to them. Needing the other's need has been disparaged by our culture, but it is part of the quandary created by the coexistence of giftgiving and exchange.

For example, 'smothering' mothers sometimes hold on to their children too long. They need to be needed because their giving has been trapped inside the family. They are unable to find needs outside the family which they may fill, or to direct themselves to 'others-in-general' through working for social change. Paradoxically, in a situation of scarcity, there is also a scarcity of needs to which giftgivers have socially approved and 'meaningful' access. If the gift economy were seen as the norm, everyone would be needed by everyone.

In a gift economy, some kinds of specialization and habitual interactions would probably form on the basis of the general recognition of the values of the gift paradigm and the personality structures connected with it. The people with the capability and energy to nurture would not be denied access to the people with the needs, nor would the flow of goods be stopped. Giving and receiving would no longer be branded as 'demeaning,' but would become normal behavior. The earth pulls us to her, water runs downhill, wind moves according to atmospheric pressure. There is a gravity and a pressure differential in human affairs also, which must be respected. Exchange works like a system of locks on a river, making water travel uphill, away from those who have the needs and towards those who already have more than enough. Our altruism is manipulated and turned back upon ourselves. We desperately need to validate the original flow.

There is also a gravity in personal relations, and the flow can be altered there, as well. We may begin to count on another person's nurturing, internalizing it as something we 'deserve,' seeing it as a payment for our right action of one kind or another. Then we affirm this rationale as valid and insist on being nurtured in the manner in which we are accustomed. When the other person doesn't do it for us, we do it for ourselves, procuring or taking what we need or believe we need, no longer respecting the desires of the other. It is all too easy to do this in the exchange economy in which we live at present because this kind of attitude is 'normal.' If we were living in a gift economy, we would remain in a situation of other-orientation, looking at others' needs and satisfying them, but trusting that they would be doing this towards us, as well. A masculated ego structure would not be necessary.

I think that, in practice, such well-founded trust would allow a greater transparency of our experience. Much less fear, bigotry and hatred would occur because the person would not need to defend her/himself at every moment, both from others' violent taking, indifference, manipulation and from self-criticism for doing these things to others 'in order to survive.' In other words, there would no longer be artificial structures blocking the flow of compassion. These structures also cause the fear, self-pity (the ego-orientation of compassion) and distress which block the clarity of our selves and our interactions. I just want to repeat here that I do not see this as the 'fault' of the ego-oriented person, since the whole system of patriarchy is pushing him/her in that direction, moreover the terms of guilt and repayment are really exchange-based values, and therefore validate the exchange paradigm, even while they are being applied to one of its defects.

Rather, the wider self-similar social structures that validate the masculated ego logic must be recognized as impractical, obsolete, and harmful. Masculation and its external projections should be seen as alterable and actually pernicious to society in general, as well as to the individual. Practicing other-tending towards the person possessing or possessed by a masculated ego, we can see that s/he has a need to dismantle and re-arrange it, that s/he would be happier and more effective without it, being more other-oriented. It is possible to create an environment in which other-orientation can be validated and internalized as such, without turning it primarily towards the 'other within' or the external or internal dominator. This can be done by not masculating our males and by changing the paradigm from exchange to giving, validating the values most women (and many men) already have.

Monetization and Morality

Monetization of labor not only incarnates some of the processes of the definition, like substitution and equivalence, but it also functions as a judgment upon the value of the person to society. Money and the free market supposedly measure us on a standard that is equal for all and objective, which makes it all the more difficult to deal with if we are judged negatively by it, or left out of the monetized economy altogether. Women's salaries, being lower than men's, negatively define us as 'less' than men to begin with. The economic sample of judgment by salary then doubles back into other types of judgments, reinforcing their power over us. We measure and motivate ourselves by the monetary standard, influencing our judgments of ourselves and others as good, smart, efficient, etc.

These judgments appear to come from some external standard where worth is evaluated 'objectively,' and fit in well with the quantitative evaluation of the masculated ego. We are a society obsessed with evaluations from grades in school, to counting calories, to the weather report and the psychological test. We submit to tests and let the assessment dominate our behavior. Even in our intimate examinations of consciousness, we judge and dominate ourselves through self-assessment. Much of the self-esteem movement is meant to counter the all-out negative effects of domination through negative self-evaluation.

Of course, we must give value to criteria and judgments if we are to submit to them. Authoritarian parenting, morality and religion are set up to make us give this value. It is more difficult for other people to dominate us, especially psychologically, if we do not do so.

A sort of secondary exchange system is created in which we strive for recognition. We give our actions of a certain sort to the scrutiny of others, and the judgment they give us is our reward. Even giftgiving is done often with this in mind. We long for the judgment of others that we are 'good,' or smart, or capable. Then, having received it, we use it to form our identities, our self concepts.

Giving or withholding this judgment, and giving a negative judgment, are ways people have power over others. One reason we strive to receive positive definition by others, attributing so much importance to it, is the underlying pattern of judgment by salary, which in turn is influenced by the underlying pattern of the pricing of products. Our love relationships also often follow these patterns. Each of us is 'evaluated' by our lover, chosen as the 'best' among similar 'products' or 'employees.' (Economists now even talk about the 'marriage market.') It should not be this way. We are greatly influenced by the unconscious archetypes of exchange--and would be much happier without them.

We sometimes internalize the evaluation and judgment process, dominating ourselves according to society's values or our own. By such inner activity, whether through self-domination or self-acceptance, we confirm ourselves as 'good,' etc. Morality functions along these lines, inducing 'right conduct' within a situation based upon exchange. Unable to really solve existing problems or shift the paradigm socially, morality, like charity, makes the best of a bad situation. Perhaps it even saves its practitioner individually, making him/her become 'good' rather than 'evil.' However, the person is encouraged to concentrate on his/her own qualities, thus remaining ego-oriented, without challenging the paradigm.


The 'price' of not nurturing or giving value to the dominator may be physical violence. The 'gift' is thus constrained, making it like the 'gift' of the work of a slave. For centuries, people throughout patriarchy have been trapped in situations where violence is the punishment for not giving. The many are punished by ones or by hierarchies for non-compliance or rebellion. Obedience becomes a survival skill.

In this situation, the stop-gap measures of personal generosity may seem to be the only viable response to suffering. While caregiving people practice giftgiving individually, they do not appear to be proposing a viable social model and thus do not serve the solution of the general problem, which has to take place on a wider scale. Probably many of these caring individuals would want to change the social paradigms; they just do not see things in those terms or know it is possible.

The movements against domestic and sexual violence have organized individual caring for social change at the level of the family. They do not yet challenge other aspects of patriarchy, such as environmental and international violence; however, they are focusing on the problem in an important area, they are practicing the values of care--and they are organized. Other movements for social change, for peace, for the environment, for economic justice and the liberation of peoples are doing important work for systemic change, but they do not usually focus on patriarchal patterns as the problem or on women's values as the solution.

A similar consideration may be made for governmental solutions to problems. While they may be well-intentioned and even functional in the short term, they are operating upon the foundation of exchange. The appeal to individual responsibility as against dependency, taking people off welfare, integrating them into the market, is a solution which aggravates the problem by re-emphasizing the values that are causing it. Giftgiving as done by the paternalistic state is demeaning and ineffective. The culprit wrongly appears to be receiving, which is seen as passive and unintelligent--and is decried as almost sub-human. Consequently creative giving-and-receiving is replaced by individual integration into exchange and the reinforcement of masculated capitalistic values.

Individual altruism sometimes does provide a giftgiving model, extending its influence to a wider group. However, unless it is an attempt to arrive at the root of the problems, it may only be a way to live within the exchange paradigm, maintaining a certain degree of personal sanity and helpful behavior towards others, but without radically changing anything. Compassion, charity and morality, when practiced only as individual approaches, do not cause a paradigm shift which is necessarily a collective process.

That is why it is important to see women's coming to consciousness--the international women's movement--in the light of the gift paradigm. The gift paradigm is already there in women's caring values and, when individual women validate their own (not patriarchy's) values, they are already part of a collective, which is more than 50% of humanity. The gift paradigm is deep, pervasive and unrecognized. Masculation occurs early for males, but women take on the values of masculation later by seeing the world through the eyes of our 'others'--of those humans society has alienated from us and whom we over-nurture.

By becoming conscious of our other-tending values as paradigmatic, women working for social change can liberate ourselves from the superimposition of the values of masculation upon the values of care. By proposing the gift paradigm as the human way for all, we can also liberate men and society at large from the hall-of-mirrors of the exchange paradigm. Men and women can recognize the alien and unnecessary character of masculation, step back from it, and dismantle it in non-masculated, non-violent ways. The transition towards a different way can be easier because the alternative way does not have to be invented. It already exists in the giftgiving which is actively practiced by half of humanity and forms the hidden matrix for the other half.

Restoring Humanity to the Mother

The kind of other-orientation that is functional for taking care of children is interactive and different from a morality which tries to impose 'right action' and 'right attitudes' on others or oneself. Morality may cross over into nurturing, especially when it is difficult to satisfy needs because of scarcity or stress. In difficult times, a person may also have to 'force' herself to act in an other-oriented way towards the child or the other, i.e. to take on the nurturing as a moral issue.

Reactionary and macho philosophers have interpreted the mother-child bond as 'natural.' Giving value to the needs of the other is not 'natural' in a mindless sense, but it is also not part of rule-based morality. It is a principle sui generis--of its own kind--which may not be recognized as such because it does not contain within it those self-reflecting ego elements by which we usually recognize something as a principle or 're-al'--because our thinking so often takes place in the masculated mode.

If our egos and our philosophical interpretations of re-ality are ego-oriented and produced by exchange and masculation, the non-ego-oriented things that we do remain outside their purview. They do not become conscious, or at least not in the same way. There is an instrumentality of egotism that binds us to giving value to what may be useful to it, and not to other things. It sees its structures reflected, and defines that familiar sight as 'real' while things that do not have those earmarks are extraneous, irrelevant, un-real. The self-similar ego is a little like the animal which marks its territory with urine, then recognizes it as its own. In giftgiving, we are usually not involved in marking our territory, but in providing the well-being of the other at some level.

If language is based on giftgiving, giftgiving cannot be considered mostly pre-verbal and infantile. If we can add to language other instances of giftgiving, such as dreaming, art, and action for social change, we can see giftgiving begin to emerge as the great unacknowledged principle of the human species. We must understand that the Mother is for giving and that both males and females can be for giving. Indeed, exchange--spun from the process of naming and the definition--does not work to satisfy the needs of the many. Only by taking up the principle of the Mother--not as biological or instinctual, but as conscious creative human practice--will we be able to satisfy the diverse material and cultural needs of the 5.5 billion human beings now living.

What we need to do now is to bring the gift mode into the ego-oriented consciousness in order to show its advisability for all. This can be accomplished by looking at things from a meta level, with a global perspective, and in terms of a totality. In fact, ego-interest and other-interest coincide at the global level.

The survival of the planet (other interest) coincides with the survival of the individual ego and even of the whole complementary system of exchange-and-giftgiving. If each of us is to be destroyed by the destruction of our planet, each of us can give our energy to the solution of the problems that are causing this destruction, whether our motivation is ego- or other-oriented or a combination of both. For the ego-oriented people, this is a moment of transition towards giftgiving. From the meta point of view, which sees both paradigms, we can all opt for a paradigm shift. This is the beginning of a solution.

I believe that the spiritual practices which call upon the oneness of all are actually seeking this meta level, while couching their quest in terms which recall the superiority of the one as opposed to the many. While proposing an inclusive one--and inclusion is an aspect of gift logic--they nevertheless do not focus upon the actual patriarchal dynamics between the one and the many.

From the point of view which tries to embrace everything, it is possible to include both paradigms at the same level of importance. The self-reflecting exchange paradigm is not more important than the gift paradigm, although its self-similar form creates that illusion. It is the gift paradigm which could stand alone as the logic of human behavior. Looking at both paradigms from the broader perspective, if we re-institute the criterion of competition between paradigms--which is not contradictory because it is taking place at this 'higher' level--we can see that the gift paradigm wins hands down as the more functional way for humans to think and behave.

We can displace our individual striving to become the sample and allow the gift paradigm to become the sample for human behavior. By ending masculation itself, language, the definition, and naming, liberated from their self-similar incarnations, can continue the creative mediation of human subjectivities and cultures in a world in which material giftgiving becomes the norm. If we analyze and understand exchange, the ego and its elements well enough, we can maintain any of their aspects which may be useful to us all. Just as we may use some kinds of technology in a peaceful and ecologically sane way to provide the means for nurturing everyone abundantly, we may perhaps decide to maintain elements of exchange and the ego-oriented consciousness to provide certain kinds of useful activities and parts of our personality structures.

A reinterpretation of morality as behavior which creates a transition towards the gift paradigm would suggest that we should act according to other-orientation and life-giving and promote the consciousness of that behavior as paradigmatic.1

Conditional and Unconditional Love

Morality does not function effectively because of the patterns of domination which pervade its strictures. A gift which is forced either from the outside or from within loses many of the positive aspects of the gift. Moreover, we place ourselves in a position to be manipulated. As in masculation or definition by money, we depend a great deal on judgments by others. We want just the right measurement or evaluation for our actions. In love, we may try to get others to be other-oriented towards us rather than being ourselves other-oriented towards them. Some kinds of positive judgments about us seem to ensure that possibility. For example, we elicit the positive judgments of others by making ourselves beautiful. Then we love them for loving us. Thus, we are in the same position towards them as we are towards ourselves loving ourselves: the part of ourselves that loves our exchange-based ego. We both internalize and externalize the relations between the paradigms, in our relations with ourselves and with others.

Much is said about unconditional love in our therapy-riddled society. Perhaps, what the therapists have hit on is the healing quality of other-oriented, gift love, in an exchange society, where much of the love that is given is framed by bribe and barter, 'given' on an if/then basis. People who love each other outside the exchange paradigm can consider themselves harbingers of a better world.

Urgent needs among those close to us can call forth the gift of unconditional love. The tragic AIDS epidemic has stimulated a great deal of giftgiving without attachment. The movements against child abuse, battering, and addictions, the peace, environmental, and anti-nuclear movements, the movements for the liberation of peoples all require endless hours of dedication, a great commitment of life energy and imagination.

The 'release' of others from our attention (as positive-thinking teachers advise) functions because it assures the continuation of other-orientation towards another without any feedback on her part. On the other hand, such an extreme position as loving unilaterally would not be necessary if the society were not so deeply warped by exchange. Active giving and receiving, turn-taking, is appropriate behavior between two persons (as well as between them and the rest of society) and can take place without involving giving in order to receive.

It is only when we have been so wounded by exchange and domination that we no longer trust that we find it necessary for others to love us unilaterally and unconditionally. However we may also look askance at this solution, since we have been taught by therapists as well as by the society and our parents that it is wrong to receive without giving anything back. We want unconditional gift love, but we are taught that exchange is the only respectful and human way to behave, so we may suspect gift love of really being a power gambit, the first half of an exchange we did not enter into knowingly (they loved us without our asking!) and can never 'repay.'


Many of our parenting practices are barbaric. We get children to obey by threatening to abandon them or beating them up, thereby teaching exchange and conditional if/then reasoning. "If you do this, you will get that."2 We make children give value to us and to our words, according to what we want. Here, the giving-over of the will and the satisfaction of the parent's need to be obeyed are grotesque imitations of nurturing and being nurtured.

Even as adults, the threat of abandonment haunts us. The society does to us what our parents did. The specter of homelessness, joblessness, loneliness menaces each home, each place of employment, each family and individual. There is a constant threat of scarcity of love, just as there is the threat of scarcity of money and nurturing goods. In our waste-oriented society, according to the model of the product for which no market exists, or which the accelerated production-exchange-consumption cycle barely uses, we can suddenly find ourselves cast upon the garbage heap. Falling out of the privileged market categories, we are placed in the trash can of time and place. Such a situation influences both 'masculine' and 'feminine' egos, frightening them into a position of dominance or submission, making them follow the Don Juan model of one-many money dominance or the Super Mom model of the useful product, out of fear of being discarded and abandoned.

Unfortunately, the phallic images and phallic ways in our society reinforce the masculated ego at every turn. The lack of meaningful rituals and meaningful work outside these patterns highlight the patterns of masculation. Everything, from the army to exploitative economics, integrates the idea of masculinity with the idea of agressivity. Teenage boys learn that the way to dominate others is through showing off, with big phallic cars or with many girlfriends. Teenage girls learn to pay attention to big cars and to deal with the possibility of being seduced and abandoned. From the missile to the number 1, from the Trump Tower to the ivory tower, the self-similar phallic image draws attention to itself, creating crystallized rituals to which everyone in the society can continually relate according to her or his particular place or role. Since these objects are present in daily life, we do not recognize their continuing power, but they unconsciously influence our behavior and our motivations all the time.

Practicing exchange in order to do giftgiving is the compromise or hybrid the society has proposed between the two paradigms. However, giving in order to receive economically makes us more likely to do the same in our relationships. When we measure the emotional exchange and feel we have not gotten enough, it seems reasonable to leave, self-destructive not to. Sometimes monetarily, the mate doesn't 'contribute enough to the household'--sometimes emotionally, he or she doesn't give enough, or goes with others, therefore not 'exchanging' with oneself. Therapists and friends help to assess the right or wrong doings of the mate, measuring the advisability for one to remain attached.

In relationships based on giving, giving itself would be a given, securing the atmosphere for both, allowing more leeway for development. Sexual attraction calls forth a lot of attention from the other person. Each 'invests energy' in the other, then wants to give to or nurture and be received by her. Actually, I believe most relationships begin with giving, then as soon as negative things begin to happen, exchange reasoning kicks in. The giver begins to want to be a receiver and to calculate how much she has given. She 'sets boundaries,' especially when she sees that her own giving cannot continue as such and she has to paradoxically switch onto the exchange mode in order to continue to give.

Acting according to the gift paradigm, co-municating materially probably makes us more likely to continue loving unilaterally. Perhaps this is why so many women continue to love, to maintain their children whom men abandon, and to even remain faithful to philandering husbands. Even in a hostile environment, the gift economy self-perpetuates, at least for a while. If we were to practice giftgiving in abundance--not only in the home, but socially as the way of organizing our economy and institutions--our human relationships would improve and our internal conflicts would be more easily healed.

1Thus, we would be reworking the Kantian categorical imperative so that, not only should we ask whether the principle (the paradigm) underlying our action could be generalized, but we should act to bring its generality to consciousness and institutionalize it.

2The case of a modern 'feral,' language-less child, was described recently by Russ Rymer in Genie, Harper Collins, New York, 1993. Rymer's book demonstrates how little giftgiving the child received. First, as a victim of isolation and abuse by her parents, then as a pawn of bureaucratic academic interests, she was almost as far from straightforward nurturing as Victor of Averyon, who was subjected to the authoritarian strictures of Jean Marc Gaspard Itard a century earlier. Genie was able to categorize, but never learned syntax. She kept a roomful of containerssand buckets and plastic cups which I read as analogous to word categories without gifts. I think the idea of 'belonging to' or property was not enough to let her learn language. She needed the nurturing co-munication prior to language. She did not participate in enough giving and receiving outside exchange to be able to generalize it to the relations in language and to attribute value the way others did. Rymer contends that, even after she was released from her captivity, the child was used as a pawn of research by her academic 'caretakers.' Genie did achieve the 'pivot stage' of development, but could not go beyond it. She could not project gift relations onto words. Genie's inabilities show the defect of exchange. For exchange, the category is more important than the contents. Moreover, humans (especially masculated males) are valued for what they have and are supposedly born with: male gender, the soul, a personality, an identity and (some believe) languagewhile giftgiving actually constructs these 'properties.' Genie was not freely given to and, therefore, did not have the model of free giving by which she could herself give 'other-oriented' value to the contents of her categories or construct her social self linguistically.

For-Giving Chapter 21

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