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Giving Back to the Gift Paradigm/Another Worldview Is Possible
By Kaarina Kailo, Oulu University
By restoring gift giving to the many areas of life in which it has been unrecognized or concealed, we can begin to bring the gift paradigm to consciousness. Gift giving underlies the homonymy of "meaning in language" and the "meaning of life." (Vaughan 2002: 2)
The current world situation--the deepening of neo-liberal economic fundamentalism-- represents
the most threatening stage of human development: It may even be interpreted as
the apex of the patriarchal and capitalistic exchange economy, with cynical self-interest
at its ideological core. This is a moment in his-story when the gifts of the
many, of the land, of nature, the caregivers in homes, hospitals and educational
institutions are not only being taken for granted but exploited and appropriated
to serve the market.
Women are 70 per cent of the world's poor, and they own one per cent of the world's wealth. In every country in the world, women are poorer than men, and their poverty and economic inequality affects every aspect of their lives--their basic survival and the survival of their children, their access to food and housing, their physical security, their sexual autonomy, their health, their access to education and literacy, their access to justice, their ability to participate in public life, their ability to influence and participate in decisions that affect them. Women's economic inequality is integrally connected to their sexual exploitation, and to their lack of political power. As long as women as a group do not have an equal share of the world's economic resources, they will not have an equal say in shaping the world's future. (Day 2000: 12)
It is also worth considering that in 1994 the richest 20 percent of humanity garnered 83 percent of global income, while the poorest 20 percent of the world's people struggled to survive on just 1 percent of the global income (World Bank 1994). The situation appears to have only worsened. As the above references to the widening income gap suggest, women's lack of political and economic power translates into the devaluation and incorporation of their gift labour in all of its public and private forms--emotional domestic, public service. Neo-liberal globalization has extended its tentacles to the most remote regions from the overexploited South to the overdeveloped West and the marginalized Arctic, wreaking havoc on indigenous and mainstream communities, on men and women, but most particularly, on those women who, due to lack of resources and power are most vulnerable to economic sexploitation. Masculated economic policies and the psycho-spiritual control of women by patriarchal religions have represented a major threat to women's self-determination and status throughout history. The new marriage of right-wing religious and economic fundamentalisms risks taking women back to the dark ages in terms of their economic, sexual and psychological self-determination and choices. As our basic rights to work, resources, water, security, peace and clean air are being traded for corporate entitlements and privatization, global ethics, too, are being "outsourced" and "downsized." It is important, then, to take collective action against the new fundamentalisms threatening the historical achievements in the realm of woman/human rights and the politics of positive difference. It is equally urgent to theorize and research the underlying roots of the expanding dysfunction and loss of values.
Genevieve Vaughan's writings on the gift economy in (l997) and the paradigm on which it is built, represent one much-needed and timely theoretical response to this crises. They represent a powerful naming and valorisation of women's traditions of circulating gifts. After all, it is thanks to the philosophy and worldview based on gift giving and circulation that communities hit hard by the market and the Bretton Woods (the unholy trinity of IMF, WTO and the World Bank) institutions have survived and may well continue to do so. Where the current neo-liberal politics is based on an unrecognized unilaterality of taking, the Gift Economy stresses the value of unilateral giving, when the gift recipients are not in a position to give back. In the exchange economy, profits motivate the unilaterality, in the latter, giving is a response to the satisfaction of needs--basic needs to which all are entitled.
In this article, I have chosen to focus on Vaughan's theories of the Gift, because I feel they promise renewal and "re-sourcement" to counter the scarcity of solidarity, the freezing over of social responsibility. They help analyse how "progress" could have led to this, and how we might best get out of the mess. The purpose of this article is twofold: first, to briefly situate Vaughan's work in the academic lineage addressing gift giving from the influential theories of Marcel Mauss to contemporary theorists of the gift. I also include feminist materialist theories as a lineage of theories on women's surplus labour, with which Vaughan has significant affinities. Second, I will give an example of my own adoption of the Gift Economy concept, which I term Gift Imaginary, and through which I address the need for new paradigms and practices of transformational politics. The members of the international group, Feminists for a Gift economy, started by Vaughan in 2002, are committed to a politics of affinity and cross-cultural solidarity that values diversity and difference, while working towards common local/global goals of gift-based world renewal.
1. Giving Back to the Gift Economy-Vaughan's Contribution to Theoretical Gift
Genevieve Vaughan's theories (and the activism to which they are inextricably linked) could be analysed in the light of a number of theoretical schools and feminist theories from Feminist economics (eg. Folbre 2002; Mellor 2002) to cognitive psychology, semiotics, psychoanalytic feminist theories (object relations) and Marxist or materialist Feminist theory. However, it seems most appropriate to situate her writings in the genealogy of anthropological theories on the gift while at the same time recognizing their broader applicability and their holistic, interdisciplinary gist.
1.1. The Lineage of the Theories of the Gift
Since Marcel Mauss' influential Essai sur le don or the
Gift in 1924, gifts and gift exchange have been frequent topics of inquiry within the field of anthropology. For Alan D. Schrift, in addition to that, the theme of the gift can be located at the center of current discussions of deconstruction, gender, ethics, philosophy and economics:
Where commodity exchange is focused on a transfer in which objects of equivalent exchange value are reciprocally transacted, gift exchange seeks to establish a relationship between subjects in which the actual objects transferred are incidental to the value of the relationship established. Commodity exchange thus exhibits the values that, for example, Carol Gilligan associates with an ethic of rights based on abstract principles of reciprocity, while gift exchange exhibits the forming of and focus on relationships that she associates with an ethic of care, an ethic based on interpersonal needs and responsibilities, an ethic that speaks in a voice different from the one that has heretofore dominated the moral tradition (Schrift 1997: 2-3).
The theme has emerged also within the humanities and education from literature to Native (Kuokkanen 2004) and Women's studies or theories recognizing gender (Strathern l988; Berking 1999: Cheal 1988). Lewis Hydes' The
Gift. Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property (1979) traces the writings on the Gift by focusing on literary works and Jacques Godbout's The
World of the Gift (1998) (in collaboration with Alain Caille) spans a number of fields in an interdisciplinary social science and anthropology perspective. Although the works of both Hyde and Godbout are quite extensive, bringing up new insights and knowledge on gift-circulating nations and authors, they also personify and role-model in their approach the ease with which male scholars neglect or trivialize women's historic role as nurturers and gift givers. In fact, Godbout's analysis of the writings as well as his own approach towards women's gift processes reproduce the values and biases of the exchange economy. At worst, Godbout misnames feminists' theoretical gifts and spreads the stereotypes about feminists being merely "recent converts to the market," out to disparage the "feminine" ways of giving without utilitarian interest (Kailo 2004d). The exchange economy refers to a worldview which according to Vaughan is more characteristic of men than of women, and which due to upbringing predisposes men to taking gift giving for granted while rendering them all the more attentive to the worldview based on exchanging/giving in order to receive the equivalent or more of what one has given. In contrast with Vaughan, as the above quotation reveals, Schrift labels even gift giving as a form of exchange. This is the prevalent attitude also of the other male theorists.
According to Schrift (1997), the contemporary focus on gifts and exchange can be traced to "two important developments." He identifies them as the writings of Jacques Derrida (l99l, Donner
le temps, l. la fausse monnaie, or Given Time: l. Counterfeit
Money) and second, as the emergence of gender issues within critical theory. Among the critical theories Schrift notes the writings of Helene Cixous. Without going into a detailed comparison of the research, it is obvious that few of the Gift analysts go into any length or depth regarding the contributions of women or mothers as primary gift givers and providers of non-monetized care, or as transmitters of a social contract not based on self-interest. The circulation of women among men as currency of exchange is in some cases even seen as desirable, far from it being analysed as a symptom of patriarchal power relations and ownership entitlements. It is significant and quite radical in the patriarchal context of academic theory that Schrift should give recognition to gender issues as belonging to the "important developments." However, the particular and concrete ways in which women contribute to the upkeep and reproduction of patriarchy and the labour force as the unrecognized pillars of capitalism remains surprisingly absent or unfocussed. Unlike the purely theoretical, abstract and even elitist writings of Cixous, Vaughan's theoretical and real life activism is informed by concrete, pragmatic caring for social justice and transformation. She practices the philosophy of the gift, having also created many projects, founded a feminist foundation and an international network for women to share visions and strategies on gift circulation despite the obstacles to it created by neo-liberal politics. Vaughan's formulations of the tension between the gift and the exchange economy as gendered categories provide the theoretical lens through which the oversights and selective biases of the male writings can be exposed and situated. In light of the current world crises, it is most important to give weight to the lived, pragmatic dimensions of the gift paradigm. The world has never been transformed by theory and academic action alone. As a feminist writer and activist, Vaughan is both inside and outside of the academe, using her resources to help women devise ways of re-owning their gift ways, while also dismantling the Master's House (Lorde), undermining the market and its parasitical ways. Thanks to the act of naming women's gifts, Vaughan also helps us women come out of the closet as self-belittling gift givers or as the unconscious closet supporters of the patriarchal exchange economy.
The fact that Vaughan's writings are ignored by Schrift and Godbout, among others, might well attest precisely to what is wrong with patriarchal attitudes towards the gift; their tendency to privilege even those gift-analyzing women, who have concretely done less for the transformative politics than those, whose concrete grassroots labour of caring might help undo the world's asymmetries of power. But this is the essence of patriarchal academic circulation of knowledge-as-a-gift; those gifts are recognized and circulated which best reinforce and uphold the status quo of the non-gift-giving manhood agenda; gifts that do not upset the balance of power favouring the masculated world view and order. Helene Cixous, for all her feminism and experimental feminine writing, is still part of the more hegemonic system of gendered power. Paradoxically, as a discursive rebel and feminist theorist of "the other bisexuality," she is still an accepted, near-canonical figure of the academic institution. In Europe as in North America, she is privileged over the sweaty, exhausted activist feminists, whose labour of love may be seen to rock the unsustainable patriarchal economics more concretely and tangibly. However, it is important to stress that this reservation I have about putting gift-theorizing scholars on a pedestal does not mean having to adopt the either/or politics of hierarchical patriarchy; of pitting the grassroots vs. the academic activists. In my holistic interpretation of Vaughan's theories all levels of rebellion and theorizing are needed to bring about the long and short-term transformation of the patriarchal exchange economy. I do not question the gift of Cixous' "other bisexuality," her creative and transgressive feminine writing on the gift. I only question the elitist one-sidedness that has colluded with the appropriation and silencing of the concrete and pragmatic gift impulse. Academics tend to privilege the academic, at the expense of the "other" gift givers. In fact, one wonders whether the Academic context lends itself to gift circulation at this neo-liberal stage of the knowledge society; In Europe as in North America, academic freedom is being watered down as corporate interests and the (market-oriented) "social mission" of universities is being strengthened. Knowledge is in the process of being turned into a marketable, profitable commodity. Knowledge creation is becoming merely knowledge trade, an academic variety of capital accumulation.
1.2. The Exchange and the Gift Economies
Unlike most of the theorists on the gift, Vaughan heeds the impact of gender
on the very worldview and theoretical lens through which such theories have and
should be approached. One of Vaughan's contributions is to bring home tangibly
and convincingly that the scientific, academic approaches of Mauss and his followers
bear the unavoidable imprint of the theorists' own sex - and
I would add, even their culture and history. One's own understanding of the nature
of humans as either homo economicus or as homo donans (Vaughan 1997) cannot but
impact on how gift circulating societies are perceived and evaluated. A scholar
who has himself naturalized human self-interest rather than the nurturing impulse
thus ends up projecting such a negative assumption on the cultures he is studying.
This bias is present in many theories on the Gift. Throughout history, male scholars
have sought to naturalize women's difference from men, writing theories about
women's alleged closeness to nature, nurture, intuition, and emotional leanings.
Women have been kept out of politics with the pretext that politics is too cruel,
hard and immoral for women - whose
role is in stark contrast the upkeep of a nation's morals and more communal values.
Curiously, many of the very same scholars have extended and projected the self-interest
and less "moral" ways of the male sex
to all of humanity, forgetting that they had considered the other half (of mankind)
as more self-sacrificing and caring. Implicitly, Vaughan addresses this major
contradiction within male philosophy, psychology and other academic theories.
Vaughan argues that two basic economic paradigms coexist in the world today, the exchange
paradigm based on power over, a selfish mode of trading, competition, short-sighted and divisive self-interest and on the other hand, the unconditional gift
economy which seeks to satisfy needs and consolidate communal life (Vaughan l997; 2002). The two basic orientations in life, with their gendered roots, co-exist and compete: "These paradigms are logically contradictory, but also complementary. One is visible, the other invisible; one highly valued, the other undervalued" (Vaughan 1991: 84). For Vaughan, the former, based on unilateral need satisfaction and the creation of bonds between giver and receiver, is essentially connected with elite white men; the latter with women. Echoing the theories of Belenky et al. (1986), Gilligan (1982), Chodorow (1978), Noddings (1984) and others, for Vaughan, women have been assigned the role of caring unilaterally for children, which is why they are more likely to develop the logic of the gift (2002: 3, 7). Without dwelling on culture-specific sex/gender systems, Vaughan believes that
There is something else that all the societies have in common: the caregiving done by mothers. This social constant does not depend so much upon the biological nature of mothers as upon that of children, who are born completely dependent. If someone does not take care of their needs, they will suffer and die. The satisfaction of their needs must also take place without exchange, because infants cannot give back an equivalent of what they receive. (Vaughan 1997: 35)
Vaughan explains that transforming the gift process into an equal exchange erases
the other-orientation of both exchangers?|making their equality only the equality
of their self-interests. Exchange becomes a kind of magnetic template around
which societies organize themselves. The thinking of both men and women gravitates
towards the masculated "template," giving it a great deal of credit, perhaps
because of its similarity with naming and definition (the linguistic processes
from which it derives and which we continue to use at least in English). Giftgiving
continues unabated, but remains invisible and does not become generalized as
a model, which is validated by having conscious followers. In fact, the gift
paradigm gives way: it does not complete with the exchange paradigm. It is thus
in the situation of giving value and giving many gifts to exchange (Vaughan 1997:
49). Vaughan's insight is thus to consider the way in which the very notion
of exchange comes to dominate a boy's and the adult man's cognitive maps. Because
in most modern societies men have more power than women, they have the opportunity
to project their own cognitive patterns and images into their work, politics,
policies, beliefs and institutions. Vaughan looks at such similarities between
patriarchal structures at different levels not as analogies, historical isomorphisms
or homologies. Rather they are self-similar social patterns created by the reciprocal
feedback of the form of the definition into the definition of gender (and vice
versa, the definition of gender into form of the definition) at many different
levels (Vaughan 1997: 51-52). In Vaughan's view, language and communication themselves
need to be re-approached by divesting them of the cognitive and evaluative projections
of the male theorists. Hence, we need to realize the extent to which they
have governed and directed our understanding of any number of social phenomena - not
just theories of the gift. One might look upon the exchange economy as also a
form of mind colonization--ideological imposition. Vaughan believes that language,
for example, needs to be seen as a sort of free gift economy:
We do not recognize it as such, because we do not validate gift giving in our economic lives and, in fact, we usually recognize the existence of nurturing specifically only in the mother-child relation. It, therefore, does not occur to us to use gift giving as a term of comparison for language. With language, we create the human bonds that we have stopped creating through material co-muni-cation. Language gives us an experience of nurturing each other in abundance, which we no longer have?|or do not yet have-on the material plane. (Vaughan 1997: 36).
The social significance of the above theories in the neo-liberal modern context is obvious. The cut throat individualism and one-upmanship of the neo-liberal politics can be exposed as anything but "natural" and unavoidable, to defy the persistence with which its tenets are disseminated and imposed. As David Korten (1996) among others has discussed, neo-liberalism is projecting crude and divisive self-interest as the essence of human nature, arguing also that this is what, together with competitiveness and greed, best motivates humans and thus best guarantees economic growth and increasing prosperity. Vaughan's analysis adds a gender-sensitive dimension to the male discussions of economic fundamentalism, reminding us that macho-capitalism also has very obvious gendered roots.
In contrast with the worldview based on abundance and gift circulation, the ideologies of lack, of artificial scarcity, deficits, "inevitable" cutbacks coalesce in the masculated mind-set:
If we look at co-muni-cation as the material nurturing or free gift giving that forms the co-munity, we can see the nurturing that women do as the basis of the co-muni-ty of the family unit. The nuclear family, especially the relation between mother and children, is just a vestige of what a community based on widespread gift giving may have been at some time in the past, or could be in the future. The isolation of pockets of community from each other keeps the gift model weak, while the scarcity in which most of us are forced to live makes gift giving difficult, even self-sacrificial and, therefore, "unrealistic." (Vaughan 1997: 35)
In this regard Vaughan's writings echo also the views by Vandana Shiva and Maria Mies (1993) who find that deficit thinking and reductionism are inherent features in Western science:
There seems to be a deception inherent in divided and fragmented knowledge, which treats non-specialist knowledge as ignorance and through the artificial divide, is able to conceal its own ignorance. I characterize modern, Western patriarchy's special epistemological tradition of the 'scientific revolution' as 'reductionist' because: 1) it reduced the capacity of humans to know nature both by excluding other knowers and other ways of knowing; and 2) by manipulating it as inert and fragmented matter, nature's capacity for creative regeneration and renewal was reduced. Reductionism has a set of distinctive characteristics which demarcates it from all other non-reductionist knowledge systems which it has subjugated and replaced. Primarily, the ontological and epistemological assumptions of reductionism are based on uniformity, perceiving all systems as comprising the same basic constituents, discrete, and atomistic, and assuming all basic processes to be mechanical. The mechanistic metaphors of reductionism have socially reconstituted nature and society. In contrast to the organic metaphors, in which concepts of order and power were based on interdependence and reciprocity, the metaphor of nature as a machine was based on the assumption of divisibility and manipulability. (1993: 23)
Vaughan believes that despite the parasitism of the exchange economy, the gift paradigm is present everywhere in our lives, though we have become used to not seeing it. Vaughan elaborates on the gendered aspects even of creativity by arguing that patriarchy has assigned "activity and creativity" to men and "passivity and receptivity" to women, because it has been blind to the creativity of gift giving and of receiving. However, Vaughan sees both gift giving and receiving as creative: "The use of what has been given to us is necessary to make what has been given into a gift. If we do not use it, it is wasted, lifeless. The fact that the capacity to receive is as important as the capacity to give is manifested in our ability to transform sentences from active to passive and from passive to active" (Vaughan 1997: 47). In Vaughan's view, reinstating the gift paradigm to its central place in the group of interpretive registers, through which we address the world, lets us see that most human "activity" is oriented towards the satisfaction of a need at some level. 
As the above brief summary of Vaughan's theories suggests, gift giving by women is not just a concrete activity that we need to revalorise, to prevent it from being appropriated by patriarchy and capitalism as women's unpaid free labour. This appropriation of the gifts not just of women but also of the land and its free "resources" is a reflection of a scarcity-based and un-giving worldview with a particular gendered, masculated agenda. Vaughan has thus broadened the scope of the classical analyses of the gift by not limiting it to the gift, but showing how a non-giving worldview and cognitive bias affects all areas of human and non-human life. This is the perspective that also sets Vaughan's theories of "surplus labour" apart from the feminist analyses going back to the 1970s.
1.4. On Materialist Feminism
As Hennessy & Ingraham (1997) note in their anthology, Materialist
Feminism: A Reader in Class, Difference, and Women's Lives, capturing the views also of the Feminists for a Gift Economy network, the strengthening and spreading of global capitalism since the 1990s has presented the women's movement with serious new challenges. The Left has had to reorganize in new ways, to address the failure or weakening of the power of socialism. The women's movement, too, following the political apathy of postmodernism and deconstruction, has gradually woken up to the radical challenges of neo-liberalism and the deepening backlash against women's rights. Commitment to social transformation, attention to the political economy of capitalism has had to be debated rather than taken for granted. Although many forms of feminist cultural politics dealing with gender, race, class, sexuality or their intersections have heeded issues of privilege and power politics, they have together tended to displace a systemic analysis that might engage feminism directly with the struggle against capitalism (Hennessy & Ingraham 1997). Feminist engagement with Marxism has adopted a perspective on social life and the sex/gender systems that considers together the materiality of meaning, identity, the body, the state, the nation all of which are intimately linked with the division of labour benefiting patriarchal capitalism. Hennessy & Ingraham (1997) note that
Women's labor continues to be a primary source of capital accumulation. Feeding and caring for children, attending to the sick and the elderly, and providing one of the main sources of cheap labor in waged work have been women's long-standing contributions to capital accumulation across the globe. Women perform most of the world's socially necessary labor, and yet they are far more vulnerable to poverty than men. (l997: 2).
The authors remind us that white women earn 70 percent of white men's earnings, while black women earn only 64 percent of what white men earn (US Bureau of Census l995). They stress that
It is important to remember that poverty is not mainly a function of gender or
race but a permanent feature of capitalism that affects children and men too.
The socially produced differences of race, gender, and nationality are not distinct
from class, but they play a crucial role - both
directly and indirectly - in
dividing the work force, ensuring and justifying the continued availability of
cheap labor, and determining that certain social groups will be profoundly exploited
while others will be somewhat cushioned. (l997: 2).
I agree with the authors that the theory underlying feminist practice cannot afford to eclipse the material realities that bind race, gender, sexuality, and nationality to labour. For Hennessy & Ingraham, these, however, are the very connections that have been abandoned by western feminists in the past twenty years. They feel the oppressive construction of difference and identity connected to capitalism's drive to accumulate have no longer been sufficiently addressed by feminisms. When feminists have questioned visible differences as the basis for political movement, the alternatives proposed often appeal to abstract, historical, or merely cultural categories like desire, matter, or performativity. In bracketing the relationship of visibility and bodies to capitalism as a class-based system, feminism has implicitly and at times even explicitly embraced capitalism--or, more commonly, ignored it (l997: 2). Hennessy & Ingraham thus call for a return to considerations of class and anticapitalist theorizing and practice.
What is Vaughan's contribution in light of these feminist needs? While Vaughan does not brand her theories as "materialist" or "feminist Marxist" or the like, together with her network and activist writings (eg. The
36 Steps towards a Gift Economy, 2000), her political, transformative engagement is both implicit and explicit. "Feminists for a Gift Economy" produced a joint statement, which was circulated first at the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre (Jan. 2001), then at other feminist events from Uganda to Mumbai (2004). In this declaration of our goals and visions, as well as the critique of patriarchal capitalism, we refer to the class dimension of neo-liberal economic fundamentalism, and also point out the surplus value that women's labour represents to the capitalists.
As early as l981, Heidi Hartman asked, in one of the early classical Marxist
feminist articles, whether Marxism and feminism might be reconcilable as potential "marriage
partners." She was of the opinion that such a union would have been as unequal
and asymmetrical as that of men and women in matrimony: it is the women or the
feminism that gets incorporated instead of the union being one of two partners
with equal weight and power. In this regard, her theory echoes Vaughan's view
of the gift as the "invisible" economy.
Vaughan's theories address the burning issues that face the women's movement
in the 21st century, and it is thus normal that the focus should be differ from
those worrying Hartman. While the collective feminist awareness of the roots
of patriarchal and capitalistic abuses has deepened, the approaches - and
particularly their intersectionality and interdisciplinary nature have also broadened.
Feminist theorizing has expanded to include issues and perspectives that were
unheard of at the time of early Marxist feminism. For all that, Hartman's article
remains a classic in its own right, and was one of the early efforts to heed
the role of class and capitalism rather than an historic patriarchy as key foci
of feminist theorizing.
According to Hennessy & Ingraham (1997) Annette Kuhn, Anne Marie Wolpe, Michele Barrett, Mary MacIntosh in Britain, and Christine Delphy in France were the initial promoters of materialist feminism. They favoured this term over "Marxist feminism" in order to emphasize the point that although Marxism had not adequately addressed women's exploitation and oppression, a historical materialist analysis might be developed that would account for the sexual division of labour and gendered formation of subjectivities. More than socialist feminism, materialist feminism was the conjuncture of several discourses--historical materialism, Marxist and radical feminism, as well as postmodern and psychoanalytic theories of meaning and subjectivity. In drawing on postmodern critiques of the humanist subject and neo-marxist theories of ideology, materialist feminism constituted a significant shift from the feminist debates of the early 70's, both radical and socialist alike (Hennessy & Ingraham 1997: 6-7). For all their differences, most materialist feminists share the view that an essential feature of capitalism's gendered division of labour is gender ideology--those knowledges, beliefs, and values that present women's oppression as natural.
1.4 Surplus Labor and Marxist Feminist Theories
As regards the notion of domestic and emotional labour, Vaughan has affinities with the tradition of Marxist feminism that has theorized the implications of these forms of gendered "surplus labour" to capitalist profiteering. Vaughan also refers to the masculated biases of economics, with the gross national product being limited to "productive" work:
Though communism may be seen as an attempt to satisfy needs, it has been undermined, like capitalism, by patriarchal structures. Marx and other male economists up to the present day, did not understand women's free labor as value-producing work. If women's work were counted (See Marilyn Waring, If
Women Counted, A New Feminist Economics, Harper and Row, San Francisco, 1988), we would have to add on at least 40% to the GNP of most Western countries, more to Third World countries. Economists who leave aside such macroscopic elements must be skewing their analyses, as if a student of the solar system were to leave aside 40% of the planets. S/he would have to find other explanations for their effects ?| irregularities in orbits, for example, and would not be able to map an itinerary for successful space travel. Feminism is a more complete analysis, deeper and farther reaching, and a better basis for social planning than communism or capitalism, because unlike them it gives value to free labour. (Vaughan 1997: 101)
Vaughan sums up that women's un-monetized gift labour has been invisible to economists until recently because those who were practicing the values of exchange were the only ones studying it (Vaughan 1997: 53). 
Against classical Marxism, Dalla Costa and James (1972) also argued that women's domestic labour is integral to the production of surplus values. They saw the entire domain outside the wage market as a "social factory" that is not strictly speaking outside capitalist production at all, but is the very source of surplus labour. Women's housework--feeding, laundering, cleaning, educating--is indispensable to wage work because in doing this unpaid labour women produce the living human beings who enter the wage sector. This position was shared by Benston (1969) and Gimenez (1978), who contended that the material base for women's oppression is their exploitation as domestic workers. As Benston explained it, women's reproductive labour in the home is necessary "if the entire system is to function," and it is therefore a crucial component in the class system. In this respect, women are potentially the central figures of subversion in the community. This view echoes the vision of the Feminists for a Gift Economy that reviving or making visible the already existing gift motivation and making women recognize their concealed economic value can have radical consequences for social transformation and the undermining of cutthroat capitalism. Swasti Mitter has elaborated this point by detailing as early as l986 the role of women's labour in the global factories of late capitalism and outlining strategies for organizing women workers internationally (l998: 12). Vaughan's contribution, other than the added dimensions described above, is, however, to situate women's labour as a particular form of multidimensional Gift labour, which cannot be reduced to the Western understanding of economics as separate from spirituality, worldview and broader socio-psychological issues (Vaughan 2002). The early materialist or Marxist feminists have tended to operate from within an uncritically embraced Western paradigm that did not at the time realize the impact and importance of epistemic and ontological cultural differences of perspective and worldview. While Vaughan does not explicitly build the understanding of cultural variation in perception and interpretation into her own culturally-situated theory, she recognizes its relevance and has created a space for cross-cultural explorations of the gift and its many manifestations through the gift network. Furthermore, Vaughan feels that whereas materialist feminists look upon women as predominantly exploited victims, she prefers to foreground women's labour as a logic and worldview in its own right, something so basic to human survival that it should not be seen as the other of the male economy. In fact, she feels, together with many members of the Feminists for a Gift Economy network, that this logic of gift circulation should most importantly be extended also to boys and men. To raise boys as virtual soldiers or upholders of the national competitive economy also prepares them for power over-forms of object relations, predisposing them to replace giving with hitting (Vaughan 1997). Considering the fact that violence against women is the single most serious human rights issues today (Amnesty 2004), one cannot overestimate the transformative power mothers and fathers can exert through their educational values and methods.
2. The Gift Imaginary - Reuniting
Politics and the Spirituality of Everyday Life
Ecofeminism challenges all relations of domination. Its goal is not just to change who wields power, but to transform the structure of power itself." (Starhawk 1982: 77)
The Gift is an agent of social cohesion, and this again leads to the feeling that its passage increases its worth, for in social life, at least, the whole really is greater than the sum of its parts. It brings the group together; the gift increases in worth immediately upon its first circulation, and then, like a faithful lover, continues to grow through constancy. (Hyde 1983: 35)
In this last section, I wish to create a third space between Vaughan's theories
of the Gift and that of the socio-politically oriented (socialist, Marxist and
other feminisms) that overlap but also part on points that I consider to be critical
for the transformation of the neo-liberal agenda. A recent comment I received
from an organizer of a conference on Spirituality and Globalisation alerted me
to the importance of highlighting certain aspects of the gift paradigm - what
I call myself the Gift Imaginary. A selection committee member had expressed
reservations about my participation at this event, since grassroots feminism
is to his mind mostly, or even essentially secular rather than spiritual. I did
get invited, but only after protests by some other members of committee that
had precisely interpreted my articles as spiritual in nature. Are the Gift Economy
and the network around it "spiritual"? What is the very meaning of the term "material"?
I suspect that the persistent stereotypes about feminism as "reverse sexism," as
an agenda seeking to revert rather than transform the gendered power relations
can be found behind such views. The dualisms of Western philosophy and enlightenment
thought (spirituality vs. materiality, mind vs. matter, spirit vs. body, man
vs. woman, nature vs. culture) also give rise to the false dichotomies that
pit spirituality against political or material dimensions of life and being.
2.1. The Gift and Master Imaginary
In order to perpetuate itself, every oppression must corrupt or distort those various sources of power within the culture of the oppressed that can provide energy for change. (Audre Lorde 1984: 53)
I call the dominant Western paradigm and worldview to do with human identity and consciousness the "master imaginary." Not unlike the exchange economy, the concept condenses the artificial and arbitrary dichotomies that have allowed white heterosexual elite men to dominate nature, women, native populations and people of colour, as well as men defying the hegemonic gender contracts. Among the central elements of the master imaginary are assumptions and projections of non-egalitarian difference (eg. humans vs. animals, the civilized vs. primitives) which, upon closer scrutiny are merely the ideological tools through which the hegemonic class has sought to control, subjugate and label those it has placed in the periphery of its hierarchical order. Reason and emotion are among the gendered dimensions of being that have led to a most harmful gendered division of ethical and moral labour in the Western world. Rationality, as Max Weber among others has argued, is a highly valued feature of human (male) society, whereas the nurturing, emotional, empathetic qualities projected as the domain of women have not been even considered as "rational." Today, thanks to Hildur Ve and other feminists, the male interpretation of rationality has been exposed as limited and reductive and a more multilayered, complex understanding has emerged regarding the different varieties of rationality based on care, responsibility and productivity. It is crucial for us to grasp the gendered, historic and cultural interpretations of rationality, for many feminists, particularly of the socialist and Marxist orientation have embraced the cult of reason uncritically.
The Gift Imaginary is a world view, a projected fantasy of how I would like the
world to be ordered, which has at its core the undoing, the dismantling, the
blurring of the reductive dualisms within the master imaginary. The dualisms
coalesce and overlap, reformat and fade as the assumption of spirit and matter,
rationality and irrationality get approached via the lens of the Gift - the
impulse to circulate care, solidarity, well-being. From the point of the view
of the Gift, it is most irrational to exhaust the world's dwindling resources/all
in the name of short-term profit and the increasing destruction of cultural and
biological diversity. Neo-liberalism, from the point of view of the Gift imaginary
is not only irrational but even suicidal. We cannot have the abundance needed
for gift giving in a situation of artificial scarcity, created through wars and
economic arrangements to benefit the few at the expense of the many. Likewise,
it is not irrational to care about people rather than accumulate capital; to
create utopias of gift circulating societies rather than spreading myths of the
inevitability of neo-liberalism. Yet, even among feminists, the assumption of
virile rationality reigns as a strong principle and ideal (Kailo 2004c). I call
for the necessary, if not shot-gun union, of the spiritual and the political,
claiming that the very opposition is artificial. I also call for sustained attempts
to seduce men into the open marriage of spirituality, politics, economics, feminism.
The "union" we need in the women's movement is not that of Marxism and feminism
(Hartman), although that would help; we also need the gift of wisdom that consists
in opening up to the other imaginaries and epistemologies, those of woman-identified
women, Native people, people of color. We need the union of solidarity economics
AND of spiritual and psycho-social wisdom and practice.
2.2. "Opium for the Oppressed?" - on
the Union of Ecospirituality and Material Feminism
Historically, feminists of the Marxist or socialist orientation have been the
most resistant to the spiritually or ecologically oriented feminisms with ecofeminism
a case in point. Although this risks being itself a stereotype, for Marxist or
socialist feminists anything smacking of religion or spirituality would be opium
for the oppressed. This is not true of them all, and indeed, the labelling
of feminists as belonging to strict schools of their own is problematic and artificial.
It might well be a symptom of what Mary Daly has called patriarchal methodolatry,
an obsession with methods and categorization as ends in themselves, and as a
means of controlling reality. Yet, Marxist feminists have tended to see spiritually
oriented feminists as "irrational" or misguided - the
energy spent on pining after lost matriarchies or the Golden Past where women
were venerated is perceived as so much precious time wasted from the politics
of here-and-now. Vandana Shiva's and Maria Mies' writings on ecofeminism and
globalization (eg. l993) have likewise drawn critical outpourings from feminists
who have no patience for myths of the "female
angel in the ecosystem," or who prefer to put their energies into the strengthening
of women's paid wage-labour rather than the utopian discourses about a subsistence
perspective. In light of the rise of cyberfeminism to embrace the marriage of
humans and machines (Kailo 2003b), and considering the deepening digital and
prosperity wedge between the privileged and less privileged women of the North
and the South (eisenstein 1998), I look upon feminist ecospirituality as all
the more important, to help us restore the Gift Imaginary and to ensure an eco-social
future for all. While it is easy to find something commendable and important
in all feminist approaches (the essence of the Gift Gaze), including the critiques
of the most utopian ecofeminisms, I prioritise today materialist/economic AND
spiritual perspectives as the politics of social transformation. If the gifts
of so many, and of nature and natural "resources" are being destroyed under neo-liberal
globalisation, we simply cannot afford to promote an uncritical global relativism.
Unfortunately, many women and feminists also embrace the values of the master
imaginary, not hesitating to treat less privileged women and nature as the "other." What
I appreciate about ecofeminism, when it is not rooted in or does not embrace
the dualisms of the master imaginary, is the broadness and inclusivity of its
tenets and values: the promotion and maintenance of diversity in all of its forms,
not just in nature but among cultures, and among men and women. This is not just
any open-ended and tolerant form of diversity, but one based on the respect of
human-woman rights, nature's inalienable rights and the rights of future generations
to share in the riches of the planet.
Whereas many materialist feminists ignore or wilfully neglect the issues of ecology
and sustainability, many ecofeminists do also ignore the concrete material differences
of women around the world. Resurrecting the goddess religions and going back
to nature may work for the chosen few; the majority of the poor in the world,
however, are women in need of direct political and economic action, food, clean
water, unpolluted surroundings, and medicine. Yet, we also need the long-term
transformation of values, away from profit-based greed towards the circulation
of gifts and the reinforcement of all peoples' economic, basic self-sufficiency:
the subsistence perspective (Mies & Shiva l993). It is in this regard that I
find it necessary to seek out and adopt alternative visionings of society - such
as the gift circulating communal values of past ages. Subsistence has to do with
being locally self-sufficient, not dependent on consumer goods imported from
overexploited countries. Ecospirituality as part of the new Gift Imaginary is
then not the luxury for the privileged; it is only by replacing the psycho-spiritual
motors of consumer-based market ideologies that we can bring about lasting changes.
Economic greed and consumerist behaviour rests on ideological-political rather
than human premises; people are led to support the multinational corporations
and an addictive patriarchy ruling the world by their consumerist choices because
they are filling a deficiency at the heart of being. Capitalism thrives on all
kinds of gaps, lacks and forms of inner emptiness. Goods are poured into the
void produced by a worldview that has no space or appreciation for the free gifts
of the soul, the spirit, nature, human bonding, and interspecies communication.
According to Vaughan, the non-gift giving boys are brought up to compensate for
the emptiness of not living according to the logic of nurturing and giving. Communion
and communication--with gifts in the centre--are replaced by ammunition, violence,
hitting, robbing. With global warming (and freezing of values), we are in
dire need of new social contracts--the marriage of ecospirituality and a form
of material interconnectedness that does not misname the gifts of women, nature
and many others. In archaic cultures, gifts of material and spiritual nature
were circulated in the context of "world renewal ceremonies." The purpose was
to ensure the collective survival base of communities that were interdependent
(including humans and animals). The Native Indian potlatches are one expression
of the early forms of economics that integrated spirituality and the distribution
of the vital resources from water to food and healing (Kailo 2003, 2004a, 2004b;
Kuokkanen 2003, 2004). Native literature and theory contains an abundance of
examples of a relationship with the land and the extended family which bears
limited resemblance to Western politics of hierarchy and mastery over the other:
Europeans and their perception of land is based on the materialistic. They look
upon land as "my land, I own that land." It is a commodity. Whereas Aboriginals
look at something as part of the whole, a part of themselves, and they are part
of that - the land.
The land they are one. (One of seven Aboriginals speaking about Musgrave Park,
Australia, qtd. In Wilson Schaef 1995: Oct.3).
When a rainbow gets constricted, it becomes one color - white
(Wilson Schaef 1995: March 31)
2.3. The Gift Imaginary as Visionwork
The Gift Imaginary I advocate condenses and combines - ideally--the
most munificent of ecospiritual writings, and of the concrete theories and activisms
that aim at the radical transformation of the global village. When humans rediscover
their interconnectedness and spiritual continuum with nature (of which indeed
we are part), they may well find ways of filling the inner void beyond the materialist
trappings of consumer hysteria and the tiring titillation of the rat race. Simultaneously,
reowning the inner space means undermining the psycho-spiritual roots of neo-liberal
commercial power. By providing fewer consumers, ecospirituality is a radical
means of starving the market of its gift-robbing power. After all, women and
men finding their inner power and authority are less vulnerable to the market
seductions. For Iglehart, feminist meditation for example emphasizes practical
uses of self-discovery and the development of each person as a whole being with
integrated mind, body, and emotions. People who use meditation with these guidelines
in mind take more control over their lives, are far less likely to give over
their spiritual or political power, and are able to apply their own extensive
inner wisdom to everyday life (Iglehart 1982: 297).
Not just any spiritual doctrine would bring about balance and interconnectedness, based on equality. History has proven that male-directed and "male-owned" religions have quickly appropriated the teachings to consolidate the manhood agenda, subjugating women and nature. The Gift Imaginary is gender-sensitive and recognizes that due to their different upbringing and socialization, women's "visionwork" differs in degree and contents from that of male spiritual practices. The Gift Imaginary involves meditative withdrawal rituals into one's inner being as a means of breaking, periodically, the hold of the negative forces, powers, authorities, and addictive images with which patriarchal capitalism overwhelms us. It helps keep the internalized patriarchs, labeled by Jungians as "animus" under control.
"Visionwork" is my umbrella term for all "visionary" strategies of self-help and the inner Gift Gaze that women in different communities across time and space have relied on to practice healing and realignment with their inner wisdom beyond patriarchal or external authorities' echoes in their souls. It comprises a variety of techniques such as visualization, guided imagery, dream interpretation, active imagination, individual and group meditation etc. It refers to whatever helps women connect with a Soul of their own. Most importantly, it is aimed at the periodic dissolution of dichotomous representations of self/other, Cartesian and enlightenment models of cognition with over reliance on "left brain" cognition (linear, rational thought, objectifying vision/the gaze, cerebral, analytical modes of thought). It is not based on the objectifying, detached Gaze--the epistemic first principle of Western thought and perception--but on a broader base of knowledge reception, on the recognition that knowledge comes through all of the senses (sight, hearing, touching, feeling). Visionwork privileges "vision" as a term only to the extent that it refers to psycho-spiritual and mental imagery and insights that result from the creative re-collection and re-membering of modes of knowledge, knowing that come from a variety of sources. Paradoxically, visionwork is often linked with in-Sights gained with closed eyes--it can also be referred to as the "third eye," "the third ear," "the inner eye." Thanks to these techniques women can seek to replace the negative, one-sided or polarized fantasies of femininity produced by androcentric sex/gender systems. Visionwork as a channel of the Gift Imaginary can be used to gain fresh new views on anything from new modes of solidarity to ways to dismantle patriarchal systems and structures of domination. We need such methods of self-resourcement because women's (and also men's) bodies have been represented almost exclusively within patriarchal signifying practices, leaving them with identifications based on male fantasy. Today, it would be more accurate to label these neo-liberal, market-oriented fantasies serving the exchange economy. Gearhart labels her concept of embodied self-recovery "re-sourcement":
To re-source is to find another source in an entirely different and prior one, a source deeper than the patriarchy and one that allows us to stand in the path of continuous and cosmic energy. Re-sourcement is a fundamental departure because people using this strategy for change do not "fight" or "do battles": they see those modes as part of what has to change. We use destructive weapons at a great cost to our authenticity. (Gearhart 1976: 16)
Vaughan feels that we need a peace and justice movement led by women; this is because of women's long tradition and experience in giving and circulating gifts as a response to the needs of those who are unable to reciprocate. Women have also had a different attitude toward power; as Starhawk's definition of power (see above) describes. Indeed, women's leadership is needed because, as feminism has noted, woman-identified power is not about seizing male power, but about transforming the very notion of power as power
over. Woman-identified women's leadership is also needed to guarantee that sustainable "development" does not increasingly mean ways of sustaining the consumer-dependent market, of adapting even sustainability to the logic of the exchange economy. In fact, I replace the very notion of development for an eco-social sustainable future. We do not need more development, we need more livelihoods, justice, rights, security, peace and balance.
2.4. The Gift Imaginary and Epistemic Otherness
While I cannot take up space here to elaborate on the cultural varieties of the
Gift Imaginary, I would like to cite a few examples from cultures that do not
embrace the "rationality" of harnessing everything for profit. A Mohawk two-spirited
writer, Beth Brant is a good example of a tradition bearer giving expression
to a worldview rooted in the recognition of humans' interconnectedness with other
species - not the individualistic
cult of independence that marks Western ways. In "This is History" (1991) she
role models an attitude towards gender, heterosexuality, nature and difference
that is rooted in a recognition of mutuality, equality and the cyclical processes
of death, renewal, rebirth. Also her character/the primal ancestress of the Mohawks,
literally gives thanks to creation for its abundance: "Sky Woman prayed, thanking
the creatures for teaching her how to give birth. She touched the earth, thanking
Mother for giving her this gift of a companion" (l991: 23). Many Native writers
and theorists evoke their cultural tradition of "giving back" (Caffyn 1993) and
we also owe "Thanksgiving" to North American Indian traditions. However,
such an apparently banal gesture as thanking is radically absent in the dominant
Western ethos of development: nature is there for the taking, as are women and
their taken-for-granted labours of love. Western male writers in particular tend
to look upon nature and animals as mere hunting objects or resources. Brant's
story is a reminder of values and a way of relating that is being outsourced
and downsized fast in the neo-liberal context of fierce competition and musical
chairs. It represents an eco-social cosmos not based on the Western dualisms,
including that of a clearly demarcated good and evil. As in the Native trickster
tradition, good and evil are not clearly demarcated or predictable oppositional
categories; rather, they are shifting effects flowing from relationships and
traits co-present in both those labeled good as those seen as "bad." To become
familiar with such an alternative non-hierarchical worldview can mean becoming
more tuned to the other imaginaries, a precondition also for creating or resurrecting
an imaginary order based on one's own culture. The idea is not, of course, for
white women to appropriate Native spirituality but to recover from their own
cultural, colonial amnesia, the patriarchal overwriting of their stories and
myths. The Gift Imaginary means being connected with one's own deepest roots - experiencing
the healing impact of cultural, gendered continuity of being. Yet the local and
global intersect and overlap, and it is also necessary to consider that not all
humans have knowable roots (orphans, for example). The Gift Imaginary is therefore
an adaptable, broad concept, an umbrella that shelters people of all backgrounds
and seeks to provide us a globally valid, if locally colored container for images
and values, rituals and practices beyond the master imaginary, the imperialist
For Vaughan, women should be the leaders of the new gift-based order. According
to the same logic, Native and/or women of color might be earmarked as the most
appropriate leaders of a new consciousness. After all, more than white privileged
women, they have centuries of experience of multilevel oppression, and simultaneously,
of keeping sane and whole under inhuman pressures. Most importantly, however,
they have retained more of the eco-socially sustainable worldview, the Gift Imaginary,
than most white folks.
In the life celebrating worldview of ancient nature peoples, including the Finno-Ugric peoples to which I belong, gift relations determined socio-cosmic covenants and the strict, hierarchical dualisms of the West did not exist as such. Indigenous attitudes towards the land, for example, are very different from those characterizing the Western corporate mentality. For G.M. de Frane (Coast Salish):
All things of the land are sacred; this includes human people, non-human people and inanimate people as well ... All teachings are sacred; all teachings are stories; all stories are sacred. Sacred Teachings explain everyday life to Salish young and old. Salish people are taught from birth how to be with everything in the land ... The philosophy of Take No Photos, Leave No Footprints addresses the practice of being prepared before we enter the land. It is a way of being that presupposes that any human people would know how to be spiritually, physically and mentally, and employ reason to ensure that the intrusions are limited in duration and leave no evidence of having been there. ... The Land is our host when we are on the Land. Being guests on the Land means working with the Land in a mutually respectful way. (de Frane 2001:135).
For Indigenous people of the North, including the Finns and the Sami as Finno-Ugric
peoples, giving back to nature may well have been based on a non-hierarchical
and non-dualistic worldview where goods are circulated as gifts in the name of
collective peace and balance, not horded for private consumption. Treating animals
with respect as subjects with inherent, inalienable rights contrasts sharply
with the commodification and subjugation of animals within agribusiness (Kailo
1998, 2003, 2004c). Also, in the distant times the notion of power - at
least when attached to women--was not one of power over, but one of power within
(Spretnak 1982). There is always the risk with these discussions of resurrecting
the myth of the noble savage or of lending weight to the myths of women's nurture
and Natives' nature gene. Therefore it is important to stress that women, as
well as Native people, only risk being stereotyped in dualistic, idealising and
denigrating ways through the Exchange Gaze. The concept of women being closer
to nature than to culture is only possible from the perspective of the master
imaginary or the exchange economy that values culture over nature, and thus cannot
imagine men wanting to be part of it. However, evidence is strong that in the
prehistoric worldview no such dualisms dominated. All were on the side of nature,
with nature being part of culture. From the point of view of the Gift Gaze, there
is no dualism of noble vs. shameful savage; individuals are what they are with
their foibles, but a worldview based on Indigenous notions does not have either
nobility or savages; its order consists of interdependent members of an extended
family of humans and animals. Also, for the East Indian ecologist, Shiva, who
has written much about East Indian Native traditions and attitudes towards nature,
diversity is the basis of mutuality and reciprocity--the "law of return" must
replace the logic of return on investments, if the planet is to survive (l997:
87). For Vaughan, reciprocity is itself a term that aligns itself with the exchange
economy; therefore she privileges the term GIFT.
2.5. On Combining the Individual and the Social
The Gift Imaginary then as a concept is not in itself new, as is true of most ideas. It is a background notion in the feminist herstory and feminist or Native ways of ordering reality. I am selecting and combining feminist and other writings and my own perspective to create a narrative concept with a new focus. Dorothy Riddle for example has addressed the need to unite spirituality and politics in a collection of ecofeminist writings published in l982 as The Politics of Women's Spirituality. Essays on the Rise of Spiritual Power Within the Feminist Movement. Riddle addresses similar issues of feminist theory as I have evoked above:
Traditionally, we have tended to focus either on spirituality or on politics, either on process or on product; but they are interrelated. Spirituality focuses from society to the individual, emphasizing uniqueness and individuality. Politics focuses from the individual to society, emphasizing our membership in a group. At the same time, spirituality focuses on our interconnectedness and sense of oneness, while politics focuses on our differences, which result in our experience of separateness. (Riddle 1982: 374)
For Riddle, consensus revolution is an integration of the product focus of conquest revolution and the process focus of cultural feminism. As a model of change, it assumes that the need for change lies both within ourselves and in the society. She stresses that the vision is both a given and is continually in the process of change, being composed of a series of visions to help us move into a qualitatively new space which we cannot now envision:
Consensus revolution is a process of identifying and stating one's own needs and then releasing them to be met in ways never before imagined. It is a process of sharing one's vision with others and negotiating a gestalt which incorporates that vision without becoming attached to any one vision as better. It is the process of coming together to create a qualitatively different product than what each could create separately. It is working toward specific societal changes while remembering that ultimately one can change only oneself. (Riddle 1982: 379)
The pragmatic version of the Gift imaginary stresses that democratic behaviour does not just happen. I agree with Riddle that "In developing our vision, we need to be continually learning about our process of working together. We tend to work best in small groups where we can develop mutual trust and have accountable leadership. ... We need to remember that the creative process is non-rational and to experiment with various tools that will help us be in touch with intuitive knowledge" (Riddle 1982: 379). Riddle's sense of time also aligns itself with the Native and eco-spiritual view that time is ultimately non-linear and involves leaps of new awareness: "Probably the most crucial part of the cycle of change is that of being able to end or release a vision. Unless we are able to release or eliminate, we become constipated with old forms. The trick is that we need to be able to release or end without necessarily knowing what will come next" (1982: 379). For Riddle, the ingredients of any process of change include an awareness of the need for change, a belief or vision that change is possible, and a commitment to action. She views the first ingredient as primarily a political process-one of analysis and the second as primarily a spiritual process-of imaging a potential new synthesis. Riddle also echoes Starhawk's writings on the need to invent alternative forms of power as empowerment to benefit all:
Power-over relating, or the conquest model, is maintained by several myths. The first of these is the myth of the half-person. This myth states that we are each half-persons and that we need another person in order to make us whole. .... The second myth is that of scarcity, i.e., that there is not enough to go around. If we believe that we must compete for scarce resources, then we will also believe that we must hoard whatever we have rather than sharing it. ... (Riddle l982: 377)
Judy Grahn has also written about power as an elemental form of inner power, which has been downgraded into patriarchal worship, not the woman-friendly worth-ship of olden days:
In the time of the societies that flourished before the rise of the doctrines of patriarchy, male supremacy, white supremacy, ownership supremacy, the world outside of THAT noisy world--power and control were one entity and vested in the same being. Power was greatly respected for what it is; the production of interlocking life, and it was given worth-ship. This word has come down to us as worship. (Grahn 1982: 266)
From the perspective of the Gift Imaginary, even love needs to be rethought, for under the exchange gaze, it has also been associated with property, owning and control. The definition of the Lesbian thealogist Carter Heyward's provides a great Gift-based interpretation of the concept:
To say I love you is to say that you are not mine, but rather your own. To love you is to advocate your rights, your space, your self, and to struggle with you, rather than against you, in our learning to claim our power in the world. To love you is to make love to you, and with you. (Carter Heyward 1989: 4)
Echoing the Gift Imaginary, both spirituality and politics are combined since action contains both process (means) and product (end) components (Riddle 1982, 374-75). What I add is a more thorough, deep-delving, locally and globally relevant perspective on the imaginary as narrative and as a culturally embodied and spiced-up spiritual process. Instead of masculated existentialism, based on being and nothingness (Sartre), the lack and deficit cutting, the freefloating signifier (Lacan), ego-building as the drive toward aggressive individuality (Freud), I opt for abundance and the gifted state of beeing. Instead of the psychopathology of everyday life (Freud), I stress the need for an imaginary recognizing the everyday eros of gift-based living.
The Gift Imaginary, then, is not first and foremost an academic concept but a
creative process towards a radically other worldview, based on concrete action
as well as innovative and grounded theory. Chrys Ingraham has coined the term "heterosexual
imaginary" to reveal the extent to which the dominant imaginary is rooted in
compulsory, if unavowed heterosexuality. For her, it is that way of thinking
which conceals the operation of heterosexuality in structuring gender and closes
off any critical analysis of heterosexuality as an organizing institution. The
effect of this depiction of reality is that heterosexuality circulates as taken
for granted, naturally occurring, and unquestioned, while gender is understood
as socially constructed and central to the organization of everyday life (Ingraham
1997: 275). I agree that the exchange economy does contain this dimension of
a particular heterosexist imaginary as well, which further exposes the particular
and subtler operations within patriarchy. I also embrace a critique of heterosexism
as yet another important dimension to be exposed and transformed. Seen through
the lens of the Gift, heterosexism, however, is not just about male-female sexuality
and power, it is about a whole worldview based on a dualistic rather than multifocal,
multilevel lens - a
kaleidoscopic mode of Seeing. Compulsory heterosexuality also reflects the obsession
to see dualistically - through the filter of a naturalized male-female mode of
organizing reality. It ignores the rainbow of colours and ways of being that
better reflect life's infinite variety. Indeed, it is necessary also to interrupt
the ways in which the heterosexual imaginary naturalizes heterosexuality and
conceals its constructedness in the illusion of universality. The realization
of a Gift imaginary also necessitates a systemic analysis of the ways in which
compulsory heterosexuality (mostly a Western, historical manifestation of the
cultural sex/gender systems) is historically implicated in the patriarchal distribution
of economic resources, cultural power, and social control. Vaughan's theory of
the gift economy can be complemented most fruitfully by a materialist feminist
concept, Ingraham's "heterogender" which de-naturalizes the "sexual" as the starting
point for understanding heterosexuality. In contrast, it connects institutionalised
heterosexuality with the gender division of labour and the patriarchal relations
of production (Ingraham 1997: 276). What holistic practices associated with the
Gift Imaginary offer at best is the opportunity for women and men willing to
espouse the other "conditioning," to recover and re-source their own sources
of wisdom. It enables them to align themselves with new or newly re-discovered
expanses of being and living. The political implication of self-healing includes
not only the empowerment of the self, but also the creation of new definitions
of our potential as members of human society. To heal is to become whole. To
become whole means being able also to assess and act on collective, societal
addictions through increased self-knowledge, critical consciousness, embodied
However, I have not answered whether gift circulation, care and emotional labour
are really "spiritual." Who has the power and authority to define the "spiritual"?
Since the dominant class - elite men - have
had the privilege and power to define reality, they have also seized it to shroud
spirituality in associations and definitions reinforcing their own self-reflections.
Are the grass-roots feminists and academics within the Gift Economy group "spiritual"?
While I do not wish to speak for and define spirituality on behalf of other women,
I do seize the power to define it for myself. For me, based on my understanding,
both intuitive and academic, of the worldview of archaic Finno-Ugric peoples,
spirituality and materiality, the spiritual and the earthly, the mind of matter
and the matter of which the spirit consists are not manifestations of duality.
They are not essences, and what matters is not their inner core or unknowable
reality. What matters - very
concretely - is
the attitude we bring to them. All created beings are by definition animate,
they are alive, they grow, die, get recycled. To relate to them and the inherent
nature that we are through the Gift perspective, is to respect their immanent
sanctity. By aligning ourselves with the sanctity of all forms of life, we are
also more likely to align ourselves with respectful attitudes that see value
in giving back, or of passing on the gifts we have received for the benefit of
the entire ecosystem, and all of its members.
We are at a crucial point. We must begin to make qualitative advances, evolutionary leaps, or we will stay in a holding pattern, moving in ever narrowing circles until we have, literally, nowhere to turn. One reason we have not been making these leaps is because we have not faced the problem of power: what it means in a masculinist world; what it could mean to us. (Starrett l982: l85)
As I have suggested, politically engaged materialist feminism and ecospirituality need not be strange bedfellows. "Virile" feminisms based on the master imaginary, a dualistic world view and the espousal of the cognicentric rationality, can be seen to reflect the master/slave identity, an imaginary based on the very notion of deficit which characterizes masculated thought and values; it is characterized by an either/or way of seeing life, an inability to flow with the rapids of spirituality and Marxism, expressing a fragmented, compartmentalized relatedness to the world, to mind and matter, the soul and the earth. At worst, it is intolerant of other ways of perceiving and evaluating life, denigrating other forms of rationality.
Vaughan exhorts us to restore the mother image as the human image, and gift giving as the human way. Many Western feminists, particularly of the "secular" Marxist trend, have more in common with the instrumental view of life than they may be willing to admit. It stresses material conditions and prioritizes economic issues at the expense of earth-centred spirituality and the interconnectedness of humans and nature in its diverse forms and manifestations. Seen from the Give back and Gift perspectives, however, economics and spirituality do not need to be mutually exclusive. Many women's and Indigenous peoples' traditional paradigms have, as proof, united the spirituality of care and giving with the "economics of Giving back" which are part and parcel of the holistic worldview. In such a perspective, politics and spirituality, spirituality and economics are not separate, compartmentalized realms: they form one unified whole. Spirituality is not reserved for particular sites or days but permeates one's approach and attitude toward self and another. While some places are considered particularly powerful and sacred, this does not translate into their "opposites" being secular. Rather, everything is spiritual, some sites merely more so. The secular as a category does not exist.
I will conclude with Vaughan's comments on the logic of motherhood as a nonessentialist process, for I agree with de Beauvoir that women are not born but become women. Boys, too, can be brought up on those care rational values that could make the difference we need in the world. It is worth remembering that according to many studies, girls as a group are more sensitive to the environment, they are less racist and also more collaborative in their working lives. The major challenge of the women's movement, then, is getting boys and men to embrace these same eco-socially sustainable values.
Mother earth is not just a metaphor. Nature actually functions according to the gift way, not the exchange way. ...If we project the non-nurturing perspective of exchange we will see nature as objectified. Our understanding of nature as alive or dead really depends on whether we project the gift giving way onto "her" or not. And very much the same for ourselves. The point of view of the ego created by exchange is very limited. Taking the point of view of the other, or of many others as having a need which we might satisfy, expands our perspective. ... Create and believe in a women's culture with the economic base of gift giving now still burdened by the exchange economy, patriarchy and its values, but liberateable. Act in accord with gift values while not self-destructing (2002: 5-6).
Vaughan stresses that mothering (gift giving) is not a state but a creative process (2002, 7). One need not be a biological mother to adopt the values and the logic of caring, catering to needs:
Abstracting from a state ...is different from abstracting from a process or different instances or levels of a process. Abstracting from states we may find an essence, attempting to abstract from a process at different levels and instances of a process gives us a common logic or series of interconnected behaviors. If mothering is a process which takes place at different levels, abstracting its commonalities does not give us an essence. It gives us the logic of the gift. (Vaughan 2002: 7).
Vaughan's logic of motherhood as the new norm does not reside in the dualistic division of labour established by patriarchy to the benefit of elite nations and men, but in extending the role of nurturing and the ethics of care and responsibility to all. This logic of mothering as a way to meet the needs of all in society, and to extend thanks and respect to the entire ecosystem, also means becoming active rather than passive and unconscious recipients of care, of seeing concrete and political value in care taking, something that in patriarchy is only idolized and delegated to those of lesser prestige, not appreciated in terms of salaries, pensions or social values. We need to consider how we can pool our resources around the gift paradigm and economies, in order to formulate a strong practice of resistance to the mccolonial forces. This means that the global women's movement needs to also address its own robbery or "privatisation" of the gifts of the less privileged groups--foremost women of colour in the overexploited rather than the overdeveloped countries. It is undeniable that the appropriation of gifts has taken place not just between men and women, but between men and less privileged men, between privileged women in North and South and the less privileged women (and men) in all parts of the globe. As Vaughan sums it up, patriarchy is a societal disease, while gift giving creates alignment with nature (Vaughan 2002). The combined strategies may well undermine the patriarchal exchange economy within the academic world and its exchange-based disciplines, and also create positive resistance outside of the institutions, on grassroots levels. The strategies are not either/or ways of organizing and taking action, but philosophies and a worldview based on both/and visionings, rooted in embodied politics, politics with spirit bodies.
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A term used by Vaughan (1997) to refer to the outcome of boys' upbringing to become the less giving sex; to identify with the masculated agenda.
 Where the activists participating at the world social forum have adopted the motto "Another world is possible," members of the Gift Economy Group, meeting recently in Mumbai, India, ask: "is another world view possible"?
 The psychofeminist and moral philosophical theories which Vaughan could also be related to include Belenky et al. (1986), Carol Gilligan (1982), Nel Noddings (l984); Nancy Chodorow (1978), Jean Baker Miller (1973) and Dorothy Dinnerstein (l976). At a first glance, Vaughan addresses similar key questions about the impact of parenting arrangements on the psychosocial and ethical values of boys and girls; yet she has consciously extended her theorizing a step deeper into concrete action and transformational politics. She also lays more emphasis on cognitive psychology, the impact of language, communication and semiotics. Her focus is less on parenting arrangements as such than on the role of the boy occupying the subject position of the "protohuman," the one who is in a category the opposite of the giving mother.
Although it is of course possible that they had not come across Vaughan's book when doing their research, it is nevertheless symptomatic of the masculated lens to ignore the specific theories on women's surplus labour, on which feminists have written extensively since the l970s. Also, Vaughan has since contacted Caille and others, whose attitudes to her notion of the gift have not been gender-sensitivie (personal communication with Vaughan in 2002).
The "imaginary" is a Lacanian term borrowed by many theorists from social science to literature and educational science. Among the many uses of the term, Louis Althusser defines ideology as "the imaginary relationship of individuals to their real conditions of existence" (l971: 52), Althusser argues that the imaginary is that image or representation of reality which masks the historical and material conditions of life.
Many empirical studies confirm this insight; indeed, women's sense of space and bodily boundaries are marked by their education, upbringing and conditioning towards sacrifice and yielding. This gendered dimension of occupying space is even reflected in sports. In Finland, for example, boys and men occupy public spaces and the commons with their motorized vehicles from snowmobiles to water scooters. Where the typically male sports take space not only spatially, but also in terms of noise and sound, women and the typical female hobbies and sports are marginalized. Horseback riding is a good example of a form of sports cherished by girls. Yet, girls on horseback are not allowed on public roads and must be restricted to enclosures away from the public. Horses and girls must not take space from motorized sports. Additionally, the restricted space has its corollary in the restriction of public funding mostly to male sports. The girls' culture of tending to horses beyond the hierarchical and rougher male sports is not given public funding.
Her focus is most likely the Western context and the English language although this point is not fully clear.
Vaughan calls the values attached to the exchange economy as part of and as resulting from the "manhood agenda." I use the term "masculinist" as referring to Vaughan's analysis of masculinity as a process of masculation. Not all men need to identify with this agenda; nor is it essentialist but open for transformation through consciousness-raising.
 For an analysis of the etymology of "gift," "exchange" and "munus," see Emile Benveniste (1973). The etymologies can be interpreted in many ways, and have not stressed Vaughan's interpretation. I agree with Vaughan, however, that etymological speculation is as fraught with subjective elements as any other scholarly undertaking. We cannot avoid projecting cultural and gendered biases. Vaughan's contribution is to "project" another interpretation, one foregrounding the possibilities of the gift circulating rather than self-interested assumptions. On Vaughan's view of "munus" see l997: 30-31. Vaughan notes: "Exchange, with its requirement for measurement, is much more visible [than the gift economy] Even our greetings 'How are you?' is a way of asking, 'What are your needs?' 'Co-muni-cation' is giving gifts (from the Latin munus-gift) together. It is how we form the 'co-muni-ty' (Vaughan 1997: 31).
Shiva argues that the Green Revolution held technology as a superior substitute for nature, viewing nature as a source of scarcity, and technology as a source of abundance. Instead, this leads to technologies that create new scarcities through ecological destruction by reducing availability of fertile land and through the genetic diversity of crops (l997: l08). The expansion of cyberculture and new technology into the most remote reaches of the North can, of course, bring unprecedented opportunities for Northern people. It can open new vistas for information sharing and networking. However, eisenstein has shown that technology and the virtual democracy have been nothing but empty rhetoric for the vast majority of marginalized populations, and will continue to be so, unless we address the asymmetrical power relations that go along with the technological revolution. The current neoliberal agenda is based on creating false consumerist dependencies and addictions, and it has led to sharp increases in gendered violence, by making women even more vulnerable to economic, and hence, other forms of power. For Vaughan, masculated hierarchies are used to continually re-create scarcity around the world, by siphoning off surplus wealth. They thereby maintain exchange as the mode of distribution for all, imposing a multilevel monoculture globally. In contrast, gift-based societies do not separate economics and politics, economics and socio-cosmic relations, economics and spirituality. Their goal has been (and in part, continues to be) to create and sustain the conditions for fertility, abundance, self-sufficiency, and to circulate goods as a precondition for social justice, peace, prosperity, the good life for all.
Language consequently appears, not as a mechanical concatenation of (verbal) activities, but as a collection of gifts and of ways of giving and receiving, in alignment with communicative needs, which arise from experience and proliferate at many levels, given that there are abundant means available for their satisfaction (Vaughan 1997: 48).
Vaughan does not call herself a Marxist because she thinks that feminism is deeper than that; any theory that did not include the consideration of women's free labor, with such a huge piece missing, has to be wrong. Reintroducing that huge piece alters everything, in her view of the totality. Even the notion of class has to be revisited once free labor is introduced.
Many cultural materialists who have critiqued or distanced themselves from deconstruction's textual analysis, however, also make use of theoretical frameworks that tend to reduce social life to representation, albeit a much more socially grounded understanding of language as discourse. In contrast, historical materialist (Marxist) feminists see it as their aim to make visible the reasons why representations of identity are changing (see Hennessy & Ingraham 1997).
Sandra Lee Bartky also addresses the gendered phenomenology of oppression by addressing women's emotional labor (l990). She refers to Ann Ferguson, for whom men's appropriation of women's emotional labor is a species of exploitation akin in important respects to the exploitation of workers under capitalism. Ferguson posits a sphere of "sex?]affective production," parallel in certain respects to commodity production in the waged sector. According to Ferguson, four goods are produced in this system: domestic maintenance, children, nurturance (of both men and children), and sexuality (qtd.in Bartky: 100). According to Ferguson (in Bartky's paraphrase), economic domination of the household by men is analogous to capitalist ownership of the means of production. The relations of sex?]affective production in a male?]dominated society put women in a position of unequal exchange. Just as control of the means of production by capitalists allows them to appropriate "surplus value" from workers, i.e. the difference between the total value of the workers' output and that fraction of value produced that workers get in return ?] so men's privileged position in the sphere of sex?]affective production allows them to appropriate "surplus nurturance" from women. So, for example, the sexual division of labor whereby women are the primary child rearers requires a "'woman as nurturer' sex gender ideal." Girls learn "to find satisfaction in the satisfaction of others, and to place their needs second in the case of a conflict." Men, on the other hand, "learn such skills are women's work, learn to demand nurturance from women yet don't know how to nurture themselves." Women, like workers, are caught within a particular division of labor, which requires that they produce more of a good ?] here, nurturance ?] than they receive in return (Lee Bartky: 100). Ferguson's claim that both men and women are exploited in the same sense, i.e., that both are involved in relationships of unequal exchange in which the character of the exchange is itself disempowering (men bring the bacon, women the nurturance). Lee Bartky finds this claim problematical for in order for "surplus nurturance" to be parallel to "surplus value," the intimate exchanges of men and women will have to be shown not only to involve an imbalance in the provision of one kind of thing ?] here nurturance ?] but not to involve an exchange of equivalents of any sort. But this is just what conservatives deny. The emotional contributions of men and women to intimacy certainly differ, they admit, but their contributions to one another, looked at on a larger canvas, balance: He shows his love for her by bringing home the bacon, she by securing for him a certain quality of nurturance and concern. Lee Bartky asks a most provocative question, which I will not address: "Are they right?" ( Bartky: 101?]102). I let Vaughan's theory respond to that.
My communication with Vaughan at the World Social Forum, during the Gift economy workshop, Jan. 18th, 2004, in Mumbai, India.
Janet Biehl is a Green Party activist who is dismayed at the prevalence of Goddess-based rituals among the Greens. She rejects the use of mythic history in achieving socio-political change, and challenges Marija Gimbuta?ss findings (and their "incautious adoption by spiritual feminists") regarding matriarchal Old Europe and the assumption that worship of "the Goddess" always goes hand in hand with peace and democracy. In sum, she warns that paying homage to the Goddess infantilizes us (1989). Biehl (l990) is not opposed to eco-feminism per se, but she seeks to make eco-feminist thought more analytical, politically astute, and less dependent on what seems to be the fundamental irrationality (and anti-rationality) of Goddess thealogy and cultural feminism. To Biehl, woman does not equal nature and statement "The Earth is alive" is neither profound or true. She is particularly skeptical that any myth (e.g., of the Goddess or Gaia) can be a useful political image. Many Marxist scholars contend that women?ss spirituality does not challenge class society, and that forming an alternative women?ss culture merely allows women to drop out of the struggle for liberation for all. They reject theories of ancient matriarchy and the popular identification of woman with nature, but admit that the Left has failed to reach people?ss souls as effectively as spirituality has. The case of Biehl is illustrative of the internal contradictions within ecofeminist theorizing, for she embodies, in my view, the repressive and intolerant monocultural bias that ecofeminism seeks to deconstruct as the bedrock of patriarchal relations concerning nature and the feminine. See my article critiquing her "rationalist" mode (Kailo 2004c).
 As Mies pointed out at the WSF in Mumbai, Indian, 2004, the etymology of privatisation goes back to the Latin "privare," to rob. Do men around the globe now seek to rob the earth of its gifts--to private the commons--only because there is a primary lack in their heart of being, the masculated heart of darkness? Perhaps the reasons are more complex, more cultural, more materialist and to do with human psychology and biology.
See the many alternative non-hierarchical definitions of power in Spretnak, ed. the Politics of Women's Spirituality (l982).
For a detailed analysis of Native male and female interpretations of this Mohawk story (or herstory), see Kailo l997.
I have eloborated on these points in several other articles (see Kailo 2003a, 2003b, 2004a).
Carol Christ (1982) refers to the union of the spiritual and political with her own terms: "I have made a distinction between the spiritual and social quests. In making this distinction, I do not intend to separate reality into the spiritual and the mundane, as has been typical in Western philosophy. I believe that women's spiritual and social quests are two dimensions of a single struggle and it is important for women to become aware of the ways in which spirituality can support and under gird women's quest for social equality. Women's social quest concerns women's struggle to gain respect, equality, and freedom in society,in work, in politics, and in relationships with women, men, and children. In the social quest a woman begins in alienation from the human community and seeks new modes of relationship and action in society. She searches to find non-oppressive sexual relationships, new visions of mothering, creative work, equal rights as a citizen. If a woman has experienced the grounding of her quest in powers of being that are larger than her own personal will, this knowledge can support her when her own personal determination falters (328, 329).
The Gift imaginary and its variants are not limited to women's ways of reordering the world. Jurgen Kremer, a German Jewish psychotherapist and scholar has written many articles about his own quest for re-covering his "indigenous roots," which for him involves the painful medicine of facing one's collusion with colonialism, patriarchy, racism and a lot of other symptoms of the split Western consciousness and identity that he labels "dissociative schismogenesis." Kremer's writings evoke a radically different sense of time and cosmic being, which he calls the participatory consciousness: "The knowing of the body, the knowing of the heart, the knowing which comes from states of shifted awareness (including the dialogue with the ancestors) are all valuable processes. Storytelling, star observation, conversations with plants, animals and ancestors are equally valuable. Even though every consensus will have to withstand the challenges posed in verbal, rational discourse, the words and stories of resolution will have to withstand the challenges from all other human dimensions of experience - somatic, sexual, emotional and spiritual as well as ancestral, historical and ecological. Such an embodiment of knowing can heal the various splits, such as between body and mind. Any resolution has to include the explicit, verbal expression of agreement as well as the felt sense of common understanding. Any resolution needs to be open not just to be questioned through the pragmatics of testing propositional truths; it also needs to be open to moral and aesthetic (in the Batesonian sense ) investigations. Somatic knowledge and intuition need to see the light of the rational mind, while the mind needs to see the light which is in the body" (Kremer 1997: 40-41).
I spell beeing consciosly with two "ees" for I want to root it in the ontological hints contained in the Finnish pre-christian worldview with its world renewal ceremonies; in the sacred, spiritual sweats where the world order was being recreated, the shaman-as-a-bear may well have called upon divine bees to help with the process of rebirth and cyclical renewal. Beeing was created on the basis of the magic substance of renewal, of which the bees knew the secret, with their divine honey (Kailo 2004f). "Beeing" has to do with the plenitude, not existential emptiness of being, it refers to meady, cosmic longings and oneness with the sense of self-expansion more central than the recognition of the lack at the heart of being. It refers to an "oceanic state" beyond the existential Angst of questions such as to be or not to be.