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Genevieve Vaughan


A Radically Different Worldview is Possible

The conference, “A Radically Different Worldview is Possible: The Gift Economy Inside and Outside Patriarchal Capitalism,” was held in Las Vegas, Nevada in November 2004. The conference took place just after the U.S. presidential elections had left people of good will reeling from the re-election of George W. Bush, an event, which some believe was his second theft of the presidency. Even if Bush II had not won however, Patriarchal Capitalism would have continued in its life- threatening course. The conference and now this book are attempts to respond to the need for deep and lasting social change in an epoch of dangerous crisis for all humans, cultures, and the planet. This goal cannot be achieved without a new perspective, a change in paradigm, which brings with it a radically different vision of the nature of the problems, and of the alternatives.

I have been working on the change of paradigms toward a gift economy for many years, both as an independent researcher and as the founder of the feminist Foundation for a Compassionate Society, which had an international scope but was based in Austin, Texas, from 1987-1998, and then functioned in a reduced mode from 1998-2005. When it became clear that the work of the foundation could not continue for lack of funds, we decided to hold two conferences as the last two major projects. This book about the worldview of the gift economy, presents the first of these conferences. The second conference, which was devoted to Matriarchal studies, under the direction of Heide Goettner-Abendroth (her second international conference on the subject) took place in September-October 2005.

I believe that in discussing the gift economy we are naming something that we are already doing but which is hidden under a variety of other names, and is disrespected as well as misconstrued. It is thus an important step to begin to restore its name and acknowledge its presence in many different areas of life. It is also important to re-create the connections, which have been severed, between the gift economy, women, and the economies of Indigenous peoples, and to bring forward the gift paradigm as an approach, which can help to liberate us from the worldview of the market that is destroying life on our beautiful planet.

Over the years as I have participated in the international women’s movement I have met many, many wonderful women. Most of those invited to speak came from those encounters. I have been honoured to get to know a number of Indigenous women in this way and thus was able to invite them to speak at the conference, which indeed could not have been held without their participation. All of the speakers, academics, and activists, are gift givers in their own ways. Some had thought deeply about the gift economy, others were new to the idea. I believe that all of them found it enlightening to hear the gift economy being discussed in so many different contexts. Some 35 women from 20 different countries gave presentations. Women and men from across the United States attended the weekend conference, which was held in Las Vegas, Nevada at the Municipal Library Auditorium. The choice of location came both from the desire to take advantage of cheap airfare, and to have access to the goddess Temple of Sekhmet, a Foundation project in the desert near the U.S. government’s nuclear test site. Perhaps Mililani Trask gave the best rationale for the venue, however, when she commented, “What better place than Las Vegas to offer an alternative to casino capitalism!”

The conference and this book are attempts to justify the unity of the feminist movement and claim leadership for the values and the work of women in the mixed movement, which opposes patriarchal capitalism. An analysis that links different levels and areas of life on the basis of an alternative paradigm can suggest that much of what patriarchy has put into place is artificial and unnecessary. An alternative paradigm that sees women as the model of the human, and patriarchy as founded on males’ rejection of their own (female) humanity, can provide the basis of a political program beyond present divisions. A radically different frame would make different strategies possible, and eliminate some solutions that would otherwise bring us all (women and men) back under patriarchal control in different forms.

In order to make this analysis we make a basic distinction between gift giving on the one hand and exchange on the other as two distinct logics. In the logic of exchange, a good is given in order to receive its equivalent in return. There is an equation of value, quantification, and measurement. In gift giving, one gives to satisfy the need of another and the creativity of the receiver in using the gifts is as important as the creativity of the giver. The gift interaction is transitive and the product passes from one person to the other, creating a relation of inclusion between the giver and the receiver with regard to what is given. Gift giving implies the value of the other while the exchange transaction, which is made to satisfy one’s own need, is reflexive and implies the value only of oneself. Gift giving is qualitative rather than quantitative, other-oriented rather than ego-oriented, inclusive rather than exclusive. Gift giving can be used for many purposes. Its relation-creating capacity creates community, while exchange is an adversarial interaction that creates atomistic individuals.

Our society has based distribution upon exchange, and the ideology of exchange permeates our thinking. For example, we consider ourselves human “capital,” choose our mates on the “marriage market,” base justice on “paying for crimes,” motivate wars through “reprisal,” and teeter on the brink of nuclear “exchanges.” However, Indigenous and Matriarchal cultures, based more on gift giving, had and have very different worldviews that honour and sustain life, create lasting community and foster abundance for all.

Introducing the Gift Economy

In the Americas, before colonization, there were 300 million people, more people than there were in all of Europe at the time (Mann, C. 2005).2 Although Europeans tended to interpret the Indigenous economies in the light of their own exchange- based mentality, gift economies were still widespread when the colonizers arrived. Women’s leadership was important in these so-called “pre”-market economies. For example the Iroquois Confederation, where women farmers controlled the production and distribution of agriculture, practiced gift giving in local groups and participated in long distance gifting circles among groups. (Mann 2000) Though wampum, made of shells, was seen as a form of currency by the Euro- peans, Indigenous researchers like Barbara Mann (1995) consider it not to have been money at all but a form of character writing in beads based on metaphoric relations of Earth and Sky. Gift economies are typical of Matriarchies. In Africa and Asia as well as the Americas, various kinds of woman centered-peaceful societies existed and continue to exist today. (Goettner-Abendroth 1980, 1991, 2000; Sanday 1981, 1998, 2002).

My hypothesis is that not only were there and are there societies that function according to the direct distribution of goods to needs, non-market gift econo- mies, but that the underlying logic of this kind of economy is the basic human logic, which has been overtaken and made invisible by the logic of the market economy. In spite of this cancellation, gift giving continues to permeate human life in many ways, though it is unseen and has been misnamed and obscured. The worldview of the peoples of the Americas was indeed radically different from that of the Europeans, so much so that the two groups had difficulty understanding one another. Europeans consistently misinterpreted what the Native people were saying and doing, their spirituality, their customs, their intentions.3

Colonization by the Europeans destroyed the civilizations of the Americas be cause the mechanisms of Patriarchal Capitalism, which were developing in Europe throughout the preceding centuries, needed sources of free gifts, which could be transformed into capital. We live in the aftermath of this genocidal invasion, but this should not blind us to the fact that alternative peaceful ways for organizing the economy and social life did exist before colonization. I am not suggesting that we directly imitate those societies now. However, I believe that if we can identify the logic of gift giving and receiving, and see it where it continues to exist within our own societies, we can reapply it in the present to liberate a worldview that corresponds to it, as well as to create new/old ways of peaceful interaction.

At the same time that we begin to see the light of the alternative, we need to use it to illuminate the problem. That is, we have to see how Patriarchy and Capitalism work together to dominate and de-nature the direct distribution of goods to needs and how they turn the gifts toward an artificial system of exchange, not-giving, and property for the few. The radically different worldview that we need now is not the worldview of the gift economy as practiced by Indigenous peoples only, but a worldview that recognizes and derives from the gift economy both in Indigenous societies and, though hidden and misnamed, inside Patriarchal Capitalism itself; we might even say, inside every human being.

In 1484 The Papal Bull of Innocence VIII was published, marking the begin- ning of the Inquisition, during which, by some estimates as many as 9,000,000 witches, most of whom were women, were killed over a period of 250 years. It is perhaps not coincidental that these two genocides, of Native Americans and of European women, happened simultaneously. (See Mies 1998 [1986]) By finding the connection between European misogyny and European/American oppression of Indigenous peoples, perhaps we can identify the link that will allow us to create the common platform that is crucial for social change.

One of the reasons why a common collective platform does not presently exist is that approaches that are alternative to the status quo appear to have to do only with self-interest, individual penchants, or personal morality. For feminists the critique of essentialism does not allow the construction of such a platform on the basis of a common identity, yet curiously, even if the identity is not common, the problems are, and links among individuals and groups are made on the basis of shared issues and responses to oppression.

In fact, if we look at the way identity is formed through oppositional categoriza tion and how collective identity functions in “democracy” as the competition of self interested groups, we could see the assertion of group identity as just one more way of dividing and conquering the power of the broader collective. However, perhaps it is not from identity anyway that we should try to derive a common perspective, but rather we should trace such a perspective to an economic practice, gift giving, which women everywhere (and non-patriarchal men and cultures) engage in, often without realizing it. This practice is positive but it makes those who engage in it similarly vulnerable to oppression by market economies. It would be important not only to unite on issues sporadically to oppose the oppression in its various manifestations but to link positively and long-term on the basis of the hidden alternative economy and its perspective. In Capitalist Patriarchy the practice of the gift economy has been assigned especially to women though it has been misrecognized specifically under the names of “mothering,” “nurturing” and “care-giving.” This assignment should at least qualify women as the (non- patriarchal) leaders of a gift economy movement.

A recent re-visioning of Matriarchies sees these societies as having gift economies and power structures different from those of Patriarchy (Allen 1986; Goettner- Abendroth 1991, 2002; Sanday 1981, 1998, 2002). They are not women-domi- nated societies but rather women-centered societies. They are not mirror images of Patriarchy, but are egalitarian and consensus-based. A number of examples of these Indigenous Matriarchal societies continue to exist worldwide.4

With this re-definition in mind, we can look at most societies now existing as a combination of two modes, one of which is a distortion of the other and is parasitically embedded in it. Capitalist Patriarchy, with its drive toward compe- tition and domination, takes its sustenance from the gifts of the many, which are still being given according to the gift giving values and patterns of so-called “pre” Capitalist Matriarchal societies. Claudia von Werlhof’s article in this book, discusses the drive of Patriarchy to negate Matriarchal aspects altogether. We can also look at our present societies as the coexistence of two kinds of economies: a gift economy and an exchange, or market, economy. Two value systems come from the two economies. The exchange economy fosters competition while the gift economy fosters cooperation. Moreover, the exchange economy competes with the gift economy in order to dominate it.

The paradox of competition between a competitive and a non-competitive behaviour carries within it the victory of the competitive behaviour unless it is possible to move to a higher logical level and weigh the two as general principles for organizing life.5 At this higher level it is clear that cooperation, as a better principle, “wins” the competition. The question is how to understand the interrelatedness of the two behaviours well enough to collectively move from one of them to the other. In order to achieve this understanding we need to look at the underlying logics of the two behaviours and the economies in which they are embedded, and at the paradigms or worldviews these economies give rise to.

My proposal for this task draws not only on the idea of economic structures that determine superstructures of ideas and values (Marx 1904 [1859]), but also on the simple consideration that what we do over and over in daily life influences the way we think. The economy of exchange, on which the Patriarchal Capitalist market is built, functions according to the self-reflecting logic of exchange: giving in order to receive an equivalent. It requires an equation of value, quantification, and measurement according to a standard. Gift giving, directly satisfying the needs of the other, functions according to a logical movement of its own but has usually been considered instinctual or illogical. The action (A gives X to B) already car- ries with it implications, which are not contingent upon an equivalent return: (B gives Y to A). The elementary gesture of gift giving is transitive and it gives value to the receiver by implication. On different scales, from the small to the large, from the family to the nation, when the gift economy and the exchange economy behaviours coexist, the gift economy, consistent with its principle, gives to the exchange economy, satisfying its needs, giving it value and thereby colluding with its own oppression. On the other hand, exchange—giving in order to receive an equivalent in return—cancels gift giving. It is ego-oriented and gives value to the “giver” by implication rather than to the receiver. It is competitive, positions the exchangers as adversaries (Hyde 1979), and creates a relation between products rather than between persons.

Competing with gift giving while coexisting with it, the economy based on exchange exploits and discredits gift giving, often denying its very existence so that exchange seems to be the source of the gifts it has received or taken. In car- rying out this cancellation, the logic of exchange, which is self-reflecting and self confirming identity logic, places gift giving in a non category with which (as a category) it does not have to compete. Thus, the two fit together as parasite and host. In spite of this collusion (and all of its variations), I believe the host is much more extensive than the parasite and gift giving remains as a deep hidden alternative, permeating Capitalist Patriarchy at all levels.

Mothering, which is usually socially identified with women, is an example of gift giving in which goods are distributed to needs in a very detailed and continuous way. We can consider this distribution as an example of an economic structure, which as such, has the capacity to give rise to the values of care as its superstruc- ture. By considering maternal practice as instinctive or natural, the ideology of Capitalist Patriarchy has not only fettered women through essentialism, it has blocked the consideration of mothering as economic. By looking at gift giving as a hidden economy, a mode of distribution, which is the host of the economy based on exchange, we can see women’s commonality as economic, having to do with a way of distributing goods to needs, a practice and a process which are part of a socially determined role, not an essence. Moreover, in societies based on gift economies, men remain mothering. To be a leader for the Minangkabau, a man must be like a good mother (Sanday 2002). Thus, women and men who are not patriarchal have in common not an essence but the practice of a gift giving mode of distribution.

The coexistence of gift giving and exchange is detrimental to gift giving but advantageous to the market system. Many free gifts are fed into the Capitalist machine, which re names the gifts as “profit” and channels them from the many to the few. The 40 percent that would have to be added on to the gross national product in the U.S. and elsewhere if women’s free work were counted (Waring 1988) constitutes a gift that women are giving to the system of Patriarchal Capitalism, which does not have to pay for those services. Surplus value, which according to Marx is created by that part of the labour of the worker, which is not covered by the salary, can also be considered as a gift, leveraged or forced from the worker, but free to the capitalist.6

Both genders can practice both economies. Men can practice the gift giving mode of distribution and women can practice the mode of distribution of exchange. Mothering requires direct gift giving to children, however and since mothering is socially assigned to women, many women practice the gift mode of distribution during the time they are caring for children, and continue to do so even when they are not (and often practice it even if they never have children). The boy child’s male gender identity in Patriarchy is usually constructed in opposition to the nurturing mother, so he has to reject the gift giving mode on which he is actually dependent. Thus, gift giving is usually identified with women (who are socialized to be mothers) while independence and self-assertion or aggression appear to be male behaviours. The male gender identity finds an area of life, the market, in which gift giving (nurturing) does not predominate; indeed it is cancelled and denied. The market is thus open as a field for other “masculine” behaviours of competition and hierarchy.

The values of care can be seen as the superstructure of the hidden economic structure of the gift economy. The values of self-interest can be seen as a su- perstructure deriving from the economic structure of exchange,7 especially as combined with Patriarchy. Much ideological confusion arises from the fact that the economic structures of exchange and gift giving taken together are also the structure of a parasitic relation in which one economy gives to the other, while the other economy actively takes from it. Thus the superstructures also reflect this parasitic relation and are difficult to disentangle.

The above considerations suggest that we should take four basic steps to begin to move from the exchange to the gift paradigm:

First: Distinguish gift giving from exchange.

Second: See gift giving as containing a basic transitive logic while exchange functions according to a self-reflecting identity logic of exclusive and inclu- sive categories.

Third: Look at maternal practice as gift giving.

Fourth: Consider gift giving (and therefore mothering) as economic, a mode of distribution of goods and services to needs.

Summarizing, we can say that the logic of gift giving is a maternal economic logic, the logic of the distribution of goods and services directly to needs. Us- ing this description we can identify this maternal economic logic as expressed in Indigenous societies, especially in matriarchies, where goods and services are distributed to needs, and motherliness and care have a high social value for everyone. By considering mothering as a particularly intense moment of a more widespread gift economy from which Patriarchal Capitalism now parasitically draws its sustenance, we can begin to change the familiar coordinates by which we understand the liberation of women and other oppressed groups as achievable through their more equal participation in the market economy. Indeed in what follows, I hope to show that the market itself is the problem, not the solution and that the gift economy and its values can be liberated from the exchange economy, which is unnecessary and pernicious.

I. Extending Mothering

This approach in which mothering is seen as one example of an alternative mode of distribution breaks the mold of maternity as limited to the relation between mothers and children only. In fact gift economies, which embody many variations of gift giving beyond exchange, use maternity as a general social principle, for both women and men, for women who are not mothers as well as for men who are not fathers. Breaking the mold of mothering as relating only to women and small children also opens the way for considering gift economies as economies of extended or generalized mothering.

Although much has been written in the twentieth century about gift giving, mostly by men, its connection with mothering has rarely been made.8 Moreover, the fear of essentialism has thrown the mother out with the bathwater for many feminists. Instead we need to consider mothering/gift giving as a basic economic logic and process, not an essence, for all humans. The gift economy gives not only mothers but men (and everyone who does not have a small child) a chance to continue to distribute goods to needs socially as well as individually (and without nursing infants at the breast).

On the other hand, women as well as men can and do practice the logic of exchange and participate successfully in the social system based on the market. Capitalist Patriarchy is not exclusive to males, and women can participate in it in roles of the oppressor as well as of the oppressed. Groups and even global hemispheres also take up the roles of parasite and host. For example, the global North takes the gifts of the global South (the gifts of the South are co-opted and redirected toward the North). This takes place even if people in the North may themselves be individually or collectively exploited as members of groups from which wealth is being siphoned.

The colonial conquest of Indigenous territories and cultures may be seen as motivated by the competition of market economies with gift economies, and the extension of Patriarchal Capitalist parasitism over gift sources. Moreover the struggles for territory among nations can be seen as the attempts of one Patriarchal Capitalist parasite to control the gift sources of another.

Abundance is necessary for the successful practice of gift giving. Exchange com- petes with gift giving by capturing the abundance, channeling it into the hands of the few or wasting it, thus creating scarcity for the many. Gift giving, which is easy and delightful in abundance becomes difficult and even self-sacrificial in scarcity. Women have been read as “masochistic” when they sacrifice themselves for others. In terms of the gift paradigm we can see that they are actually con- tinuing to practice the gift logic in spite of a context of scarcity, which is usually a product of the market and the exchange paradigm.

Looking at exploitation as the capture of free gifts—of surplus value, of cheap resources, gifts of the environment, land, water, traditional knowledges and seeds, connects these captured gifts with the gift labour of housewives and mothers, and thus connects again the women’s movement with movements of workers, and peasants, as well as peace, environmental, Indigenous and antiglobalization activists.9

II. Disbelieving in the Market

Direct giving-and-receiving has many derivatives and elaborations, which have been misunderstood and divided and conquered by Patriarchal Capitalist ideology. As we have been saying, they have been hidden to avoid competition with exchange. We can bring these gift derivatives back to light by identifying them in the many different areas where they continue to exist. For example, gift giving has been excluded from academic disciplines as an interpretative key for centuries because it threatens academic control over knowledge. In fact, the gift paradigm illuminates many questions that remain opaque for academia. Moreover, the maternal logic and mode of distribution as elaborated and extended in Indigenous gift economies worldwide, give rise to values and spiritual traditions, which are antithetical to those of Patriarchal Capitalist institutions.10 Indigenous epistemes, as described by Rauna Kuokkanen in this book, can be seen as arising from the practice of the gift economy. As Kuokkanen states, the gift of Indigenous epistemes has not been accepted by academia. However, neither has the gift-based perspective of women who are often living in the very families of these academics—and caring for them—or of the women academics who are bearing double burdens of family care and teaching. It is important to see both the care and the perspectives as gifts and to receive them with celebration rather than ignominy.

Gift giving permeates the social life of both women and men. It can be con- sidered (Vaughan 1997) the cause of communication and community, and can be found at all levels from the biological to the linguistic. Exchange itself is only one variation on gift giving, a gift constrained, turned back upon itself and made reflexive. As the dominant mode of distribution, market exchange necessitates common quantitative assessment, which requires a process of measurement ac- cording to a standard. Western economics textbooks identify economics with the market but we are extending the category “economic” to include both the practice of mothering and gift economies. This change in categorization helps to bring forward gift giving as a pan-human behaviour. Moreover, it can help to clarify the relation between exchange and gift giving at the family level, at the level of the colonization of Indigenous peoples’ gift economies by market economies, and at the “new” level of globalization in which the gifts of nature and culture, which were previously free for all (such as water, Indigenous plant species, and traditional knowledges), are being commodified. The two logics also often coexist internally to the individual. While it is clear that all of us practice both logics to some extent, we may also hypothesize that the unconscious may function accord- ing to gift giving and the conscious more according to exchange.

Rather than seeing the market as natural or as a prime achievement of humanity, we need to look at it as problematic and unnecessary, a mechanism by which we create scarcity rather than abundance by directing the flow of gifts from the many to the few. The market gives gifts a single way of becoming visible, and that is by transforming them into commodities, i.e., ceasing to be gifts. The globalizing market is Capitalism in a stage in which, on a very large scale, it is performing this transformation. By a sleight of hand it is showing that water, air, knowledge, even genes should be considered commodities “by nature.”

We need to take a leap of imagination, which allows us to look at the market from the outside or better, from the inside, but taking a position of total skepti- cism. With the defeat of Patriarchal Communism, it would seem that Patriarchal Capitalism is the only possible economy. However, the perspective of the gift economy allows us to consider the Capitalist economy as unnecessary, transient, harmful. Feminist economists usually work on creating changes for women inside the market. The gift economy perspective sees the market itself as the obstacle, not as something that can be fixed by allowing fuller participation. Nevertheless, it is possible that changes in the market11 can help create the conditions for a non- violent transition, which will allow us to start over again on a different basis.

It is not just the Patriarchal Capitalist market that is the cause of so many of our problems but the market itself. This is because its logic stands in contradic- tion to the panhuman logic of direct giving and receiving. The market is parasitic because it absorbs gifts into a relational structure in which gifts are blocked and cancelled though they continue to be given. Since gift giving is denied—not acknowledged or even seen—the flow of gifts toward the market, as profit, is understood as “deserved” or perhaps stolen—but not given. The “host” does not recognize that it is nurturing the parasite. Historically, this relation between gift and exchange can be materialized in different ways, but the market itself is a mechanism for the extraction and accumulation of profit (gifts), whether of the surplus value of salaried labour or of “housewifeized” (Mies 1986, Benholdt- Thomson and Mies 1999) labour, of the low cost natural resources of the Global South or the ecological inheritance of all the children of the future, whether of women or of slaves, of Indigenous peoples or of immigrants, locally and globally. Now the market also extracts the gifts of corporate profits paid by the money coming from the salaries of the many, whose needs have been manipulated by inventions and advertising.

By making the two economico-logical gestures—gift and exchange—and their interactions the starting point of analysis, we can provide a picture that is very different from that painted by economics proper. In fact we might say that the society we live in is founded on a fundamental polar opposition, one pole of which is not recognized as such. The invisibility of gift giving is the result of the hegemony of exchange, while at the same time it is a tool for the maintenance of its patriarchal power. By obliterating the gift or distracting attention from it by naming it something else, by breaking its common thread, or by considering its examples “primitive,” infantile or instinctual, the market and with it Patriarchy, keep control over the gifts of all for the provisioning of life. In order to under- stand and address the immense problems that come from Patriarchal Capitalism, we need to restore the pole of the gift to visibility. I have been working on this project for many years and the conference, which gave rise to this book, was an important move in this direction.

III. A Self-Replicating Logic

Patriarchy and Capitalism have grown up together, twined around each other like two thorny plants with their roots in the humus of gift giving. Capitalism provides the economic system and Patriarchy provides the motivation toward ever-greater phallic12 possessions of money, knowledge and power. The logic of exchange is self-validating and creates a consensus around its values, while gift giving, in its shadow, appears only as a feeble appeal to morality. Exchange works like a deep magnetic template to influence all our thinking. The logic of exchange can be seen in rewards and punishments, in guilt (psychologically preparing to pay back) and reprisal. Even justice, seen as payment for crimes, is framed according to the exchange paradigm, while identifying and satisfying the needs that give rise to the crimes would be a gift-based approach. The logic of war is the logic of exchange, attack and equal or greater counter-attack. Using exchange as the basic key for the interpretation of the world around us casts exchanges of ideas, of opinions, of love, of glances, (among many others) as events that might better be understood as gift transactions. On the other hand many activities that are framed as gifts are actually exchanges, such as, for example, donor-driven charity and U.S. aid to other countries.

It is important to describe Patriarchal Capitalism negatively on the basis of the gift alternative. Patriarchal Capitalist academia ignores the explanatory power of the gift and thus obscures the parasitic character of the economy and the ideology of which academia is an integral part.

Moreover sexism, racism, classism, xenophobia, and homophobia have issued from the exchange logic that functions according to the standard of the phallus and the phallic standard of the standard, creating categories based on the logic of identity, self-interest, and the exclusion of the gift giving other. This exclusion is a moment of the process of turning the flow of gifts of the “other” toward the standard. Thus the category of the market excludes the non-category of the gift which reappears as profit; the category “male” excludes the gift giving female who gives especially to males; the category “white race” excludes the other races, which are expected to take gift giving “female” positions toward white people.13 In spite of the immense tragedies Patriarchal Capitalism and the market continue to perpetrate, they have maintained control of the paradigm through which most people see the world, and continue to define reality while disqualifying the gift economy and its perspective. The answers given within the market paradigm to the question of why such tragedies continue to occur do not provide an under- standing that would permit radical change.

With the hegemony of exchange, the transitive and inclusive character of gift giving has been lost and the phenomena to which it gives rise have remained mysterious or have been given false explanations that coincide with the ideology of exchange. Bringing forward the paradigm based on gift giving while showing the negative aspects of exchange, the market, and Patriarchal Capitalism, allows us to see that a Radically Different Worldview is Possible. This in turn is a necessary step for showing not only that, as the World Social Forum motto states, Another World is Possible, but for showing that another possible world already exists in the here and now. Then by bringing it forward and giving it value, we can make gift giving define reality and reverse the polarity with exchange, non-violently liberating this other world, which is the world of the gift economy, into the present.

IV: The Implication of Value

In order to look closely at gift giving it is a good idea to see it first in detailed slow motion. Making, procuring, and providing something that satisfies the needs of others is part of a dynamic, which gives not only material satisfaction to needs but also gives value to the other by implication. The receiver is as important as the giver in the gift transaction because s/he must be able to use the gift to bring it to fruition. If the gift is not used, it is wasted, no longer a gift, and contradicts the value of the work of the giver. The recognition of the giver as the source of the gift by the receiver is not a necessary but is a common aspect of the process. By itself this recognition does not constitute an exchange but is simply a response, and is a sign of the completion of the transaction.

The fact that the giver gives to the receiver implies that the receiver is valuable to h/er because s/he does not let the need go unmet, neglect h/er, or give the good to someone else instead. This implication of value can be drawn by the giver, the receiver, or by any onlooker and thus it appears to be not just anyone’s subjective evaluation, but a fact. In exchange, using similar reasoning, the opposite implica- tion is the case. One gives in order to procure the satisfaction of one’s own need, and therefore gives value to oneself above the other, implying one’s own value. In fact, in exchange, the satisfaction of the need of the other is an instrument for the satisfaction of one’s own need.

Many have questioned even the possibility of unilateral gift giving.14 Exchange appears ubiquitous and more real and rational. Western anthropologists read reciprocity in the light of market exchange, rather than in the light of turn-tak- ing, the repetition of a model, as happens when children imitate their gift giving mothers. Giving, receiving and giving back appear very different in the light of the market and in Indigenous gift economy and Matriarchal contexts. While the logic of market exchange, like God, makes everything in its own image, in so- called “pre”-market Indigenous societies the unilateral gift continues to inform reciprocity. In market exchange the unilateral gift is cancelled, so every act of reciprocity is understood as an exchange.

Even if there were no examples of pure, completely unilateral, giving (Caille 1998),15—and I believe that such gifts are actually quite commonplace—the logic of the unilateral gift would, nevertheless, continue to carry the implication of value of the receiver and this even when in practice the gift is mixed with exchange. When people insist on the truism “there is no free lunch,” I counter that at least part of most lunches is indeed free in that women have been cook- ing them without payment for centuries. At the same time, the reception of the unilateral gift stimulates a probable appreciative response of the receiver and thus the gift can occasion mutual recognition of value as a basis of positive bonding.16 In this interaction the gift itself becomes invested with positive value and functions as a vehicle of the value of the other and a mediator of the rela- tion of mutuality. Gift giving, which is not assimilated to exchange, produces a reciprocity in which this relation of mutuality is not cancelled by the return gift, but is maintained and enhanced. Sometimes an additional gift is given, not as “interest,” as happens with debts in the exchange mode, but as another unilateral gift, demonstrating that the return gift was not a cancellation but a turn-taking “imitation” or follow-up of the first, by adding more.

The value that is given to the receiver along with the gift may appear to be inherent in the receiver—a mother gives to her child because the child has value—but her giving and giving value to her also maintain the value of the child by allowing h/er to survive. Giving transfers value to the receiver along with the gift, and the value is passed on along with the gift to others. In fact there is a kind of gift syllogism—If A gives X to B and B gives X to C then A gives X to C. Gift circulation allows this transitivity in which the original source participates in the giving process even to the final receiver, and the implication of value flows from person to person as well.

V. Exchange Value

According to Marx, a commodity is made of use value and exchange value. As we have been saying, in the market, gift value is erased. Exchange, and especially the process of exchange for money in the market, alters the character of value in that it is no longer given as gift value to people other than oneself by implication, but it is attributed as exchange value to commodities as expressed in money. The binary process of exchange in which there is a symmetrical interaction of two ego-oriented exchangers also takes attention away from the original source of the goods. (Thus it is easy to deny the importance of mothering or women’s work in the home for example, or on another level it is easy for multinational corporations to hide the sweatshop conditions in which their expensive consumer items are made.)17 Each of the interactors in exchange is implying h/er own value by using the satisfaction of the need of the other as means, and at the same time is evaluating the value of the commodity relative to all other commodities on the market by using money, so that the exchange will be “equal.” The value of the other is no longer implied by the satisfaction of his or her need, but at most, a value of identity of the two exchangers is attested by the identity of value of their products. In other words the identity of value of the products (or products and money) implies the identity of the exchangers, their belonging to the same category because of their common “property” of a quantity of exchange value. However this value depends on the logic of identity, on what they have, and therefore what category they belong to, not on an implication of value transmitted by or to them as human givers and receivers of need-satisfying goods.

The value of the other is transmitted by implication in gift giving; as value, it creates and depends upon a dynamic of transitivity between giver and receiver. The value of the other is cancelled in the exchange transaction, and both of the exchangers are taken as equal in their ego orientation, while their commodities are also judged as equal through comparison with money. Thus, exchange value is a kind of transformation of gift value.18

The gift transaction and the exchange transaction both confer value through the transmission of goods, though they function in different ways with different results for human relations and psychology. Where unilateral gift giving creates other orientation, bonding, trust and mutuality, exchange creates ego-orientation and adversarial positions, suspicion, and hostility or detachment as each exchanger tries to surreptitiously make the other give more in the supposedly equal exchange. For example, in cheating, the gift reappears in a negative sense and gives value to the ego of someone who has forced or tricked free gifts from the other—for example, by selling h/er overpriced items.19 This confrontation creates two levels, a purportedly equal exchange and a private agenda of each exchanger to leverage, force or extort unilateral gifts from the other. Moreover, the categorial identity of the exchangers gives rise to their indifference to each other, in that anyone can substitute for anyone else in their roles.

In gift giving, however, the interactors give and receive in a personal way not just according to an accepted capitalist level of production but according to their individual capacities and needs. Thus gift giving-and-receiving is creative and informative while exchange can become repetitive and standardized. The atten- tion of givers to needs creates sensitivity to the other. Emotional responses are necessary to map the needs. Exchange, which instrumentalizes needs, promotes desensitization, and emotional detachment.

In a context of scarcity, hierarchy, competition, and exchange it is easy for gift giving to become manipulative. This possibility causes receivers to become cautious and defensive and makes exchange appear to be a clearer interaction. Sometimes the receiver has more need for respect, and for independence, than for the gift itself, and the giver has to recognize and satisfy that need by not giv- ing. Marketing is manipulative in that it uses the investigation of needs and the stimulation of desires to determine what products people will buy. Although advertisers themselves probably do not realize it, they are selling exchange itself to us as more valuable than gift giving.

Though exchange is a variation on gift giving, it follows a very different logical pattern, which makes the two really “apples and oranges” to each other. Moreover, exchange has become the main basic logical pattern that we see, so that all human reasoning seems to depend upon categorization, identity and evaluation—not on the transmission of value. The equation of exchange even informs our idea of self-reflecting consciousness, which we believe makes us members of a valued category, “human,” while in other-directedness we become opaque to ourselves. At the same time needs are ignored in favor of “effective demand,” the needs relevant to the market for which the money already exists in the pockets of the buyers. That is, the fulfillment of these needs can already be categorized as pertinent to exchange when they are identified. Needs which are not pertinent to exchange are not categorized as effective demand and are thus ignored. They do not “exist” for the market except possibly as they influence the raising or lowering of prices.

Without a multi-level shifting of attention toward needs as such, the transitivity that comes through the free satisfaction of needs cannot be seen. Nor can the wide range of gifts and the implications of value that these gifts confer be recognized. Gift giving is the interpretative key that unlocks the mysteries of transitivity, in- teractivity, value and community. For example inclusiveness comes through giving to the other, attending to h/er needs, not primarily through categorization—and it is not primarily by being classified as similar to or different from each other that we create community—but by giving and receiving gifts at all levels.20

Many new areas of needs are created by human interaction and this is also the case for the interactions of the market. New needs arise according to the ways society is arranged, and thus the possibility for new kinds of gift giving also arises. In fact the gift is such a fertile and creative principle that it can never be completely dominated by exchange and it re-presents itself again and again in different ways. In a market-based society, the need for money also provides the possibility for the gift of money. The need for jobs allows one to think of the job as a gift given by the employer. The needs created by the exploitation of the global South open the possibility for immigrants to send home billions of dollars as gift-remittances. Each of these examples demonstrates gift giving within a market situation and there are many others. These gifts would not be needed of course and therefore would not be gifts, without the market. Many other kinds of gifts exist before, beyond and around the market. In fact the market floats in a sea of gifts.

VI. Mothering and Masculation

Communication, which is an important human capability, begins in each life between mother (or other primary care-giver) and child, and is deeply connected to gift giving. Indeed, giving goods to needs without an exchange can be con- sidered material communication in the sense that the bodies (and therefore also the minds) of the receivers are created through this interaction and they become the actual community members. Givers, who are also receivers, are altered and specified by their giving. The receivers are nurtured and brought into social life in specific ways, becoming givers in their turn. The vulnerability and dependence of human children requires others to give unilaterally to them in order to ensure their survival. Mothering, usually done by women, is thus a prime example of gift giving behaviour, readily available to be perceived by all, which is also a necessary (though always historically located) social constant.

Gift giving functions in mothering to imply the value of the child, but it also functions in reverse mode to encourage the mother to give to the child because s/he is valuable. In fact, the child may be considered inherently valuable, even if the implication actually comes from the gifts of the mother to h/er. At the same time the mothers, the source of this potential implication of value—and the rest of society as well—do not give value to mothering and to gift giving by women. They do give value to and nurture males. Identity logic regarding gender can thus exclude girls from the category of those to whom the mother will transitively give value by satisfying their needs.21 Since the mothers are in the same category as their daughters, they devalue both themselves and the gift giving which is the source of the implication of value.

In Patriarchy it appears that in order to achieve their masculine identity, boys must not have the same behaviour as their mothers. When children are small, the free satisfaction of their needs by their mothers is a very large part of their exis- tence. Thus the mandate to be unlike their mothers turns little boys away from a behaviour, which is crucial for them at the time and which carries the logic of the gift. They are required to be non-mothering, non-gift giving in order to fulfill the gender identity, which is imposed upon them by the society at large, the language, the father, other boys and even the mother herself. “Male” becomes a privileged category with the father as its “prototype”22 or model with respect to “female,” which is identified with the gift giving mother. The father, who went through this process himself as a child, replaces the mother as the prototype of the human for the boy child. Then as the child grows up, becoming the prototype, taking over the father’s position, becomes the agenda for masculine identity. I call this process “masculation” and I believe it is the psychological root of Patriarchy.23

In Indigenous cultures, especially matriarchies, which have gift economies, the process of becoming male can be very different from the process in Patriarchal cultures. This is because there is no clean break between the gift giving, which occurs in childhood and the larger scale gift giving that takes place in the society. The transitive logic of the gift is not seen as limited to the relationship between mothers and infants or pushed into the subconscious mind, but it is expressed consciously and explicitly in the social relations within the community. Therefore the boy child does not have to give up gift giving in order to create his masculine identity.

Such circulations of gifts as potlatch (Mauss 1923)24 or the Kula of the Trobriand Islanders (Malinowsky 1922) can be seen as a kind of social bricolage, a way of collectively and ceremonially thinking through the logic of the gift and exploring its implications. Different kinds of gifts and giving create different kinds of bonds between givers and receivers, and value is implied and passed around from person to person or from one group to another, through gift circulation. Giving to and receiving from nature is practiced as sacred communication.

When there is no market based on exchange, but the society as a whole functions by direct giving and receiving, there is a continuity for both males and females with the caregiving-and-receiving that they learn from their mothers from in- fancy on up. The mothering model of economics—the gift mode of distribution (and distribution also elicits a mode of production (see Marx “Introduction” to Grundrisse 1973 [1859])—functions for both genders. The kinds of behaviours and qualities (cooperation, sensitivity, and respectfulness) appropriate to gift economies therefore have a survival value in those economies.

Conversely, the combination of patriarchy and the market creates an altered and alienated world, which is antithetical to mothering/gift giving, de-classifies and exploits it, making it the behaviour of an unvalued or non-category. (Though this non-category is identified especially with women, who give to the privileged category and also give value to it by implication.) The kinds of behaviours and qualities (competition, domination, and greediness) fomented by Patriarchal Capitalism have survival value in market economies. Traditions of food sharing and hospitality that continue to exist inside market economies maintain some of the qualities of the gift mode and provide a sense of significance and community in spite of the general context of exchange.

Gift giving can be enlisted in the service of patriarchy, hierarchy, and the market, and power itself can be understood as the ability to control gifts to one’s own advantage. For example controlling the flow of gifts functions in a similar way, whether it takes place in a family, a community, a business, a government agency, a religious or academic institution, or between the Global South and the North. The market mechanism itself is a kind of pump siphoning gifts from one area to another. This pump works because it is invested with the motives of Patriarchy, which promote the masculated agenda of striving to have the most in order to be the prototype, the one at the top. (Like pistons, some go up only because others go down.) The possibilities for achieving this top position vary historically, but typically involve violence, which in Patriarchal Capitalism becomes systemic economic violence. Wars on the large historical scale, cultural violence on the level of class and race (and internationally), and violence against women and children on the intimate interpersonal scale uphold the flow of gifts to the top and impose the market mechanisms.

The interaction of exchange and the use of money as the prototype of exchange value are taken as standards for “right” human behaviour. While equal exchange appears to be a principle of the highest order in our society, it is not only the “cover” for the extortion of gifts, but it is the model for negative interactions like revenge and retribution, which are used as the justification for violence and war. In fact, war is really the replay of the market on another plane. The purpose of war appears to be not only to create the most killing “exchanges” so that more people of other nations will have to “give” their lives for their country, but the reward for winning is to capture the largest amount of resources, including the money standard, and actually to become the standard, the prototype country, the Father of the nations.

Other more “civilized” methods for controlling the flow of gifts include art and monumental architecture, as seen for example in ancient Rome or Egypt, where size seems to demonstrate superiority and obelisks show the phallic deserving of tithes and taxes. Skyscrapers in the modern metropolis have a similar function. With Capitalism the rewards for success include the possibility of becoming the masculated human prototype by accumulating stratospheric wealth or by stardom of various other kinds. Hypervisibility of the few is opposed to the invisibility of the many. The position at the top is given by the gifts of the many, whether economic gifts or simply gifts of the groups’ admiring attention (which often translates into money).

Human history in the West has not really begun because from the beginning of Patriarchy until now it has been only the history of an artificial parasitic male gender construction, which leaves out the agency of the rest of humanity. In fact, it is the history of patriarchal (and/or market) mechanisms fighting each other for dominance. Perhaps we could say it is the history of a disease, which infects or destroys all the healthy cultures it meets. Western history on the basis of the gift economy will have to begin over again, and try to link with the gift cultures, which have preserved a memory of what came before and an example of what could be. Women mothered by women do not go through masculation and, though they can succeed in the Patriarchal Capitalist system, their capacity for gift practice usually remains more or less intact because it is not nipped in the bud as happens in masculation. Women should therefore be the non-patriarchal leaders of a movement to dismantle Patriarchal Capitalism and replace it with a gift economy.

We may be forced to begin history on a gift basis by a traumatic crash of the market, by environmental devastation or nuclear war. If we start now however, we can try to extricate society from this perilous situation, methodically and carefully like a person climbing down from a tree—instead of falling. We can avoid the impending devastation, satisfying the needs of the future by stepping back from present conditions. It is not enough to consume less in the North however. We have to change the market mechanisms that take advantage of this consumption and of the gifts that feed it.

VII: Controlling the Gifts

By severing the connections between the many instances of the gift logic Capitalist Patriarchy has clouded the picture of what may be done as an alternative, making the gift paradigm unavailable to conscious choice and elaboration as the basis of a social project. It has achieved this also by considering gift giving instinctual, as opposed to the rationality of exchange, or super human, the province of saints and madonnas, while denying its presence in the rest of life. In this way the gift logic appears special, something not for the common people, something that religions can seize as their own. Authority regarding gift giving is turned over to male priests and Patriarchs, who legislate it, and who judge whether people—women (actual gift sources)—are acting in an altruistic way. (This altruism includes giving gifts of obedience and of money to the religious institutions.)

A theory of gift giving that sees it as an economic logic, not a morality of sacrifice or as an other worldly behaviour, can serve to protect this logic and its carriers from cooptation and colonization by religions and right-wing ideolo- gies. Unfortunately, lacking such a theory, this cooptation has already happened extensively and Patriarchal religions’ and governments’ versions of gift giving are widely imposed. They thus discredit the gift paradigm for many feminists who rightly fear their dominance, the hypocrisy of their motives, and the power of their hierarchies. Because of this justifiably negative assessment however, feminists risk ceding the whole field of other-orientation to religions and right wing ideologies instead of claiming it for women—and for all humans—with the basis in the gift economy and the values of care.

In this book, Paola Melchiori asserts that we have to distinguish between the gift economy and the nurturing role that then Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, attributes to women. I would counter that authority about gift giving should not be turned over to Patriarchal religions at all, but should be reclaimed by women. If feminists reject other-orientation they fall into the trap of relinquishing its practice and its values to those who have given up the gift economy as part of the construction of their gender identities. Women, who have the social role and experience of gift giving personally and as mothers should be the authorities on this important aspect of human life. It is not by giving up our claim to other-orientation that women can end exploitation or liberate ourselves and others from the authority and control of Patriarchal religions or right-wing governments. Indeed, by rejecting other-orientation we simply fall back into that opposite of gift giving that Patriarchy has invented, the market with its ideology of self-interest, which is the rationale of Capitalist Patriarchy. Even if this is the self-interest of a group, a gender, an ethnicity, a class or a sexual orientation and even if in practice it promotes solidarity—and thus practical gift giving—within the group, it does not raise the logic of gift giving to the meta level at which it may be used as a guideline for creating a radical and far-reaching alternative.

It is not self-interest that needs to be liberated but other-interest and the process of other-interest—the gift process. We get stuck in the formulation: A gives X to B, and do not add a parenthesis. According to the transmission of gift value, we look at B as having value and probably more value than A. But if we put the parenthesis around the transaction itself (A gives X to B), we can pay attention and give value to the process itself, not to say A is more valuable because s/he gives or B is more valuable because s/he is given to, but the process itself (A gives X to B) is more valuable than the process of exchange, which is (A gives X to B if and only if B gives Y to A).

The ego-orientation of Patriarchy and Capitalism has been extended to women by their participation in the market. This has had a positive effect for many women, especially in the North, who have been liberated to some extent from poverty, domestic slavery and psychological servility. However, it is not primarily the claiming of self-interest that will allow women to create deep and widespread social change but the claiming of control over other-interest.25 Patriarchy takes the values of motherliness, as imperfectly understood and practiced by masculated men, and recasts these values as morality to mitigate the cruelty of its behaviour, to offset the possibility of revolution and to pay for some of the costs the cruelty incurs. By looking at gift giving as an economic structure with an ideological superstructure, we can see the values of motherliness not as morality but as the traces of this hidden economy, of a better world which is not only possible but already exists.

Generalizing exchange-based self-interest creates a collection of isolated indi- viduals. Generalizing gift-based other-interest creates community. Generalizing other-interest not just for personal conduct but for social change, and giving the control of it to women (Give the land to those who cultivate it!) is a necessary step in creating a radically different worldview and therefore making another world possible.

VIII. Gifts and Communication

Those who talk about a moral economy are accessing the idea of the gift economy without discerning the thread of the gift, which unites so many different disciplines and activities. I believe that the logic of gift giving is also the logic of communica- tion and thus of our becoming human. Recognizing this possibility also contributes to breaking the mold of mothering as only concerned with mother-child relations by extending it to a pan-human capacity in an area considered by linguists to be autonomous and biologically-based.

I have been working personally for years to show that language can be con- sidered as a virtual verbal gift economy, the transposition of gift giving onto the vocal/auditory (or visual) plane where words, sentences, and texts function as verbal gifts given by speakers (or writers) to listeners (or readers), satisfying com- municative needs. Syntax is not just the governance of rules but a system of gift transactions among words, transferred from the interpersonal to the interverbal plane. Words combine or “stick together” by being given to and received by each other. For example, the word “red” modifies the word “ball” because it is given to the word “ball,” which receives it. The two words taken together satisfy the need of the listener for a human relation-creating device (gift) regarding something (the red ball) on the non-linguistic plane. It is not only the creativity of our language capacity that defines our humanity, but our ability to give language gifts that others can receive, and to receive language gifts that others give, using them to satisfy as well as to stimulate and elicit communicative needs. In other words, language is a kind of individual, and collective, nurturing on the verbal level. The practice of a verbal gift economy, which satisfies communicative needs using word-gifts given by the collectivity and by individuals, creating gifts which are not lost but are enhanced by the giving, humanizes us while at the same time we are becoming de-humanized by the processes of exchange. This conception of language puts it back into the women’s camp, from which it seemed to have been removed by biologism, Phallogocentrism, and the symbolic order of the Father.26 Meaning comes from the assertion of gift giving and the recognition of gifts at different levels, the verbal/syntactic level, the material/nurturing and community level as well as the perceptual level, where we receive/perceive the gifts of our experience and environment. By projecting the mother onto nature, considering nature as actively satisfying our needs (though in fact we have become adapted through evolution and culture to the use of the perceptual and material gifts we are given), we can persist in an attitude of gratitude, which will allow us to respond to and therefore know our surroundings as sacred and treat them with respect. In this, the theory of knowledge of the gift paradigm is consistent with the Indigenous epistemes Rauna Kuokkanen describes in her article in this book.

VIII. The Gift of Social Change

Gift giving continues now inside “advanced” Patriarchal Capitalism though it does not have that name. It continues in the U.S. and internationally, inside families and in community groups, groups with a common purpose, feminist, environmental, peace, ethnic solidarity and other activist groups, AA, spiritual and religious groups, therapy groups, social and art groups of various kinds, in the free software and free information movement, in such initiatives as Wikipedia, in movements against privatization and patenting, in online gifting circles, in soli- darity economics, in progressive philanthropy, in immigrants’ remittances and in alternative communities. Each group grapples with the control of gift giving and the context of exchange and scarcity that surrounds their attempts to give. Their struggle is more difficult because most of them are presently operating without a conscious grasp of gift giving at a meta-level, which would allow them to see the situation in terms of the relation between two paradigms. They frame what they are doing as morality, as cooperation, as family values, as independence or co-dependence, as right livelihood or grace or political commitment—even as revolution. Viewing the difficulties that arise as caused by the conflict of paradigms makes the big picture easier to understand and it also provides the possibility of intervening in different ways, creating feminist leadership and alternative strate- gies, which do not turn over the gift paradigm to the authority of religions or right- or left-wing Patriarchal politicians.27

There are many initiatives now of people trying to find ways of living beyond Capitalism, even in the Global North. For example there is the movement for alternative currencies such as Interest-and-Inflation-Free Money, LETS (Local Exchange Trading Systems), and mutual credit Time Banks, which I believe could constitute a step along the way to a moneyless gift economy, though these currencies are mostly still based on exchange in one form or another.(see also Raddon 2003). Some, like the Toronto Dollar, where a local dollar is traded for a Canadian dollar but a percentage is given to social projects combine giving for social change with alternative local currency. I would like to mention that these and similar initiatives are themselves social gifts in that they are attempts to fill the need for change and they should be understood as such. Some of them come close to viewing gift giving at a meta-level but they do not usually have an un- derstanding of the negativity of the logic of exchange itself. Without a critique of exchange some initiatives, such as micro-credit for example, try to give the gift of social change by extending market participation. While the desire to satisfy needs is certainly operative in this kind of initiative, it is not surprising that extending poor people’s participation in the market is not a long-term solution for social change and that it also brings with it many other negative consequences. The same can be said about debt-for-nature swaps, where countries of the South give up ecologically endangered areas in exchange for debt reduction. These initia- tives have been discussed critically by Ana Isla (2004) and in her article in the present volume.

The open source technology movement, which provides collaborative develop- ment of software (See Andrea Avarado’s paper in this volume) and publishes the source code of new programs, defines itself as a gift economy, but it embraces the reward of recognition, which sets up a dynamic of exchange and Big Man patriarchal privileged categories. Moreover, the exchange economy, which has been put out through the door comes back in through the window, as some of those who have gained recognition for their free software are now being offered, and are accepting, high paying jobs in corporations.

Then there are entire experimental communities where people try to live ac- cording to the gift economy. Burning Man is a short-term experiment of this sort (see Renea Robert’s article in this volume). Functioning as a week-long festival once a year, it has grown exponentially in many different locations around the world. Based on the work of Lewis Hyde, this festival revolves around the gifts of artistic expression. I believe that the other-orientation that goes with the gift logic requires that we not use it just as an end in itself, to enjoy or improve ourselves or to save our consciences but to create social change for everyone, especially in these apocalyptic times. Therefore, communities that want to be gift economies should find ways to further social change. They can do this to some extent by proposing themselves as models for others but they need to look at the multiplier effects of their actions and also actively work for change. In each case people have to think their initiatives through and figure out how to connect their immediate realities with the wider context.

All of these groups and movements would benefit by looking at the gift economy at as a maternal economy engaged in a paradigmatic struggle with exchange and Patriarchal Capitalism. Reconnecting gift giving and mothering so that we see gift behaviour as motherliness, whether it is performed by males or females—or by groups or governments—can supercede the masculated gender construction and the valuing of hyper-masculinity that has caused and is presently exacerbating so many of our problems.

Gift giving has been discussed a lot in the last 30 years though the connections between mothering and gift giving have seldom been made, nor have they been made between gift giving and language, nor between gift giving and the construc- tion of Western gender. Most writers, as they have described the gift, have not seen the logic of exchange itself28 as a major problem nor have they made the connection between Patriarchy and Capitalism. In fact most of them are male and they have once again succeeded in occupying a field of research and practice, which by rights would belong to women.

It is important not to allow the confusion arising from the competition between a patriarchal and a gift giving mode to once more eliminate women’s non-Patri- archal leadership of the gift economy movement. Men who are conscious of the negativity of Patriarchal Capitalism can acknowledge and support women in their non-Patriarchal leadership. Rather than competing with them, men can follow the mothering model and give authority to women. Women can do this as well, rejecting Patriarchal Capitalism.

In this way the international women’s movement together with all the other movements for social change can put together a project for shifting the paradigm, a project to end wars by altering the construction of gender, to heal the economy by restoring and extending the mothering model, to save the environment by revising our epistemology to recognize knowledge as the creative reception/per- ception of gifts of all kinds coming to us from our environment, thus enhancing our capacity to treat Mother Earth with gratitude rather than with nonchalance or attempts at domination. By shifting the paradigm we can realize that human- ity is not an evil self-destructive species but a species that is creating its own devastating problems because parts of it are misconstructing their gender and are acting out this misconstruction on a wide social scale. We can begin to heal ourselves and the planet by recognizing that we all create our common humanity through giving and receiving material and linguistic gifts, co-muni-cating. The gift economy gives us a rationale for radical social change under the non-Patriarchal leadership of women. By giving value to gift giving, we can dismantle Patriarchy and resolve the paradoxes that have been keeping it in place, so that it will not recreate itself or come again.


The conference, “A Radically Different Worldview is Possible,” was held at the beautiful semi-circular auditorium of the Las Vegas Public Library. The audience was composed of women and men who had traveled from many places in the U.S. and around the world to attend. From the comments afterwards, it was a groundbreaking experience for many.

Because mothering is an important example of gift giving and women’s voices have rarely been given prominence in the present discussions of the subject, we decided to claim a space for women in the discourse on the gift by inviting only women to speak at the conference. Some of the speakers were well versed in the ideas of the gift economy, especially the speakers coming from Indigenous societies. The African, Hawaiian, Native American, and Sami contributions to this volume demonstrate the life experience of traditional and present day gift economies, and their survival in spite of the context of scarcity and deprivation imposed by the market economy. For Indigenous women, the struggle between the two paradigms is no mere theory. They have experienced gift economies and have been forced to experience and participate in exchange economies, by the gradual or violent encroachment of Patriarchal Capitalism upon their territories and traditions. It is a tribute to the possibility of women’s solidarity that they accepted the invitation to speak at this conference, and for that I particularly thank them.

There were many presenters at the conference who did not know about the work of the others, and a few of the speakers had not thought about the gift perspective in the areas of their competence before. Nevertheless even those relatively new to gift economy thinking found the approach useful in describing what they were doing as gift giving and thus finding their commonality with one another in very different fields.

The conference gave evidence of a variety of points of view regarding gift giving, each of which can be used to frame the others. Each is strengthened because, taken together, the many points of view provide a wider context, and a continuity, which has been lacking for each instance of gift giving taken singly. In fact gift giving may be seen as a widespread phenomenon, which (in the West) has been deprived of its meta-level. Gift giving has been given many names that bring it into the Patriarchal Capitalist fold, names like “profit,” “housework,” “moral- ity,” “charity,” “remittances,” “solidarity,” “political commitment,” even “love.” By bringing forward the presence of the gift in many different fields, describing it and naming it as such, we can restore it to the primacy in our thinking that is necessary to create deep social change.

Is everything gift giving then, at least everything that is not exchange? (And I have been saying that exchange itself is just a doubled and contingent gift). And doesn’t this make it uninformative? I think it may be indeed that everything is gift giving at different levels, in different tempos, transposed, material, virtual, rematerialized, natural and cultural, microscopic and macroscopic, at the atomic level and at the level of galaxies. Obviously only a few of these levels are based on what humans do, except for the fact that what humans do makes up or should make up the lens with which we look at them. The objectivity of the market has broken these lenses and we have tried to look at the universe without the mother. Although this view helps us make more bombs and missiles, more new profit-making products, more genetically modified organisms, more clones, it takes away our view of all the gift aspects that we would otherwise have seen. We become color blind to the gift-color. We lose our understanding, our caregiving and our respect for human mothers and for the mothering environment, which is all around us, even in the ungiving cities—because our perceptive apparata evolved to receive the gifts of nature and culture, which surround us. The Indig- enous people’s idea of Mother Nature and Mother Earth, is true. That is because it is as mothered children that our perception and perspectives are developed. Unfortunately, as Claudia von Werlhof says, Patriarchy is trying to take over the power to give birth. It is also altering our conception of mothering/gift giving, so that it appears as if all our interactions were disengaged, heartless, ego oriented. It has taken nurture out of our nature, so that we cannot see it in nature outside ourselves or in culture. It is replacing nurture with indifference and violence. What a different sense it has to say, “light hits the retina” rather than “light is ‘given’ to the retina,” which creatively receives it. Why do we say, “Nature abhors a vacuum” instead of “Nature rushes to fill a lack?” We are stuck in the wrong metaphor, and continue to construct a worldview from which gift giving has been deleted.

Thus it is important to take the hypothesis that everything is gift giving and try to put back what has been taken away over the centuries. This means reworking our lens so that we can see the gift again, healing our gift-color blindness. In doing this we may make some mistakes, overgeneralize, see gift giving where it is not there. However, once the point of view is established the mistakes can be corrected. This volume is divided into four sections according to general themes. All of the presentations necessarily address the themes of the other sections, however because gift giving as we now know it coexists with exchange, which, as part of the dominant paradigm and the paradigm of dominance, necessarily conditions gift-giving and fractures its continuities. Nevertheless, the first section, “The Gift Economy, Past and Present,” attempts to provide a glimpse of gift giving beyond and before the context of Patriarchal Capitalism. It includes articles that give us an idea of what living in a gift economy is actually like and what perspectives emerge from gift-based thinking. These presentations give a sense of community life and worldview in the present and the past where Patriarchy and Capitalism were/are not the central focus of society but instead the gift logic orients human beings towards others, the community at large and nature. They help us see the gift economy as the basic human mode of distribution of which exchange is only a (harmful) variation. Unfortunately the worldview based on exchange has made most Euro/Americans distort our perception of gift giving, so that we have rejected out of hand the important model it provides for organizing society. This section presents the gift as it exists not only among Indigenous people but also as part of the European heritage, and as a perspective that can be used in disciplines as distant from each other as semiotics and biology. Wherever Patriarchal explana- tions have worn thin, malfunction, or do not exist, the logic of the gift shines through as an ever-present life-giving alternative.

In the first article, Jeanette Armstrong (Canada) gives us a brief but clear de- scription of what life in a gift economy feels like and how it can be organized for collective survival, given that her people, the Okanagan Synyx are presently living in a desert environment. Her sense of the importance of the land and the com- munity comes from a way of life that avoids the pitfalls of Capitalism because it is egalitarian and has gift giving as its core principle. She provides examples from her language of conceptual nuances, which are radically different from those to which Euro/Americans are accustomed.

Kaarina Kailo’s (Finland) article discusses the ancient European cross cultural imaginary, which is visible in myths based on non masculated life-centered val- ues, prior to the take-over by the master imaginary. Tracing back the roots of the gift to the epochs preceding patriarchy in the West can allow Euro-Americans to recognize their commonality with Indigenous peoples beyond the divide-and- conquer categories of the master narrative.

Rauna Kuokkanen (Samiland/Canada) speaks of the gifts of Indigenous epis- temes, which, like the gift paradigm generally, have appeared incomprehensible or even threatening to the academia of Western Patriarchal Capitalism because of their emphasis on non-productive expenditure. She makes explicit the spiri- tual traditions of the Northern European Indigenous Sami people in which giving to the land is the way of communicating with and honouring nature. She emphasizes the importance of recognition of gifts as part of a network of relations, which are built upon responsibility towards the other and sees this gift-based worldview as an urgently needed alternative to patriarchal global capitalist paradigms.

Vicki Noble (USA) tells us that “the central icon of matriarchal agricultural soci- eties was the Goddess—the abundant and generous Mother of All Things—whose centrality begs to be re-established today along with women in leadership as her ministers.” Noble traces the image of the life giving Goddess from prehistoric cave drawings of vulvas through the venus figurines and ceramic vessels discussed by Marija Gimbutas. Ancient Asian women leaders functioned as Dakinis and Yoginis, female shamans in Mongolia and the bakers of bread in ancient Greece were connected with rituals around pregnancy, healing and birthing, while, contrary to patriarchal interpretations, female communal agriculture provided an early model of a peaceful society without private property. Modern witches belong to a long line of powerful women of many cultures who have threatened patriarchy and bourne the brunt of its reprisals.

Patricia Pearlman (USA) is the Priestess emeritus of the Temple of the Goddess Sekhmet in the Nevada desert, a project of the Foundation for a Compasionate Scoiety based on the gift economy. Patricia, a modern witch, describes the project, which has had thousands of visitors over the 15 years of its existence, and gives us the gifts of her wit and her will.

With Heide Goettner-Abendroth’s work on Matriarchies, the Gift Economy finds its wider context. Goettner-Abendroth (Germany) tells us that matriarchies are not, as European patriarchal scholars have defined them, based on women’s rule. Rather, these societies, many of which still exist worldwide, are egalitarian and consensus based. Products of the experience of millennia, they function according to the principles of motherliness and gift giving. We do not have to invent an abstract utopia but can turn to these societies that function according to the most intelligent patterns of social organization for a radically different perspective. A professor of philosophy who gave up her position in order to concentrate on the study of matriarchies. Goettner-Abendroth demonstrates the gifts of dedication that have been necessary to start her own Akademie Hagia outside patriarchal academia.

Susan Petrilli (Australia/Italy) brings to the women’s movement the gift of her work on the semiotician, Lady Victoria Welby (1837-1912), who was an impor- tant predecessor for thinking about language and gift giving. “With Welby and beyond Welby,” Petrilli sees the direction towards the other, beyond identity logic as “the logic of humanism, the humanism of otherness,” Her discussion of global capitalism as communication-production, -exchange, -consumption denounces the present phase of capitalism as alienated from the humanism of otherness and proposes a semioethics as an antidote to this alienation.

Evolution biologist Elizabet Sahtouris (USA) expands the term “business” to include cooperative as well as competitive economic practices, which she finds in the natural as well as the human social world. Darwin’s ideas were influenced by Malthus’ belief in competition for survival in scarcity, which as Hazel Henderson has said, were projected into social Darwinist interpretations of economic behavior and are still part of the rationale of the institutions of globalization. Instead from Sahtouris’ point of view, throughout Earth’s history, competition in evolution has been superceded repeatedly by negotiated cooperation at a higher level. Organizing cooperatively and “glocally” can transform corporations away from competitive behaviour and towards collaborative maturity.

At present Patriarchy and Capitalism weigh heavily upon gift giving of which they form the context and from which they draw their sustenance. Other-ori- ented gift giving is the ground and complement of self interested exchange, which takes from it, exploiting the gifts of the many. This second section, “Gifts Exploited by Exchange,” addresses the context in which gift giving is presently embedded, and gives examples of some of its destructive effects, which are legion. Lies and propaganda follow the ego-oriented model of the exchange economy, while the truth is a gift to the receiver. By revealing the truth about Patriarchal Capitalism, the speakers follow the gift model and satisfy the needs of everyone to know.

Claudia von Werlhof (Austria) tells us that “patriarchy is much more than just a word for polemical purposes. It can instead be understood as a concept that explains the character of the whole social order in which we are living today, so- cialism included.” Patriarchy, she says, is a war system based on the negation of matriarchy, which still exists within patriarchies as a second culture. Von Werlhof gives a deep analysis of how Patriarchy crystallizes into Capitalism and advises us how to move towards an alternative.

Louise Benally, Dineh, Navajo (USA), talks about the difficulty of living in a gift economy while the gifts of the community are being taken by the market. The coal from Big Mountain, where her tribe lives, is used to supply the electricity to Las Vegas where the conference was being held. In fact, the waste of electricity on the neon lights of the city of gambling is notorious. In Big Mountain there is nothing—no electricity, no running water.

Ana Isla (Peru) demonstrates the importance of not accepting the false gifts of Patriarchal Capitalism, which are hidden exchanges, Trojan horses of the market. Her analysis shows that micro credit projects and debt-for-nature swaps can be deadly in spite of what may appear to be good intentions. In supporting the gift economy it is important to recognize what is not a gift, as well as what is.

Condemning the glorification of virtual technobodies in corporate cyberspace and the extraction of the life out of real flesh and blood, Mechthild Hart (Ger- many/USA) describes the parasitism of Capitalist Patriarchy on the gift-giving bodies of women in international sex trafficking and immigrant domestic work. She places hope in the web of reciprocal obligations of care that develop bonds across great distances.

Sizani Ngubane, is a South African HIV/AIDS activist. Before colonization, she tells us, food was produced by individual families but it was not individual- ized. There was food for all in the great grandmother’s house and Mother Earth was regarded as a sacred gift. Colonization took 87 percent of the land for the whites. Now there is widespread poverty, a break down of the community, and a widespread AIDS epidemic.

Margaret Randall (USA) denounces the Orwellian double speak with which the right-wing and the market are raping our language, while “speech that is truthful and beautiful is the currency of the gift economy.” She gives us the gift of two true stories—one of the propaganda attempts of the US government and the other a story of human constancy and rebirth in the face of the paramilitary of Argentina.

Carol Brouillet (USA) reveals the background of 9/11, asks us to look at the dark side of U.S. government and question the official story. The Big Lie cannot stand; researchers from all over the world are trying to bring us the truth.

Genevieve Vaughan (USA/Italy) attempts to understand the logical and psy- chological connections between heteronormativity and the market. The Western construction of gender as heterosexual brings with it the construction of a non- nurturing mode of distribution based on exchange. The norm of heterosexuality, which privileges the “masculated” male engenders the gigantic sorting process of the market and incarnates the value norm, money. The gift economy provides an alternative for living and thinking beyond the norm of normativity.

“Gifts in the Shadow of Exchange,” the third section of this book, provides examples of gift giving that sustain and strengthen community in spite of the exploitation and poverty imposed by the system based on exchange. Survival and even thrival are fostered by gift giving at new levels, not only beyond but within and around the market.

Yvette Abrahams (South Africa) speaks of the gifts of the African Khoekhoe stories, which satisfied the community’s needs to know and to follow the telling together. She describes the present scarcity imposed by the system and the con- tinuation of gift giving and sharing in spite of the widespread poverty. Sixty-six percent of food is produced by the gift labour of women’s subsistence farming in Africa. The “compassion economy,” where everyone chips in to help someone in need, survived slavery and colonialism but unfortunately is not surviving the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Khoekhoe spirituality is based on gift giving; hospitality, and ceremonial giving are a spiritual necessity. Abrahams’ description of how her people living in abundance in the past, without private property, related to each other is a key for looking at gift giving as communication. Says Abrahams, “When you have enough and I have enough our giving can taken on a symbolic character.”

Scarcity in the Global South, already a result of exploitation by the North, has been intensified by globalization. Thus migrants have been driven from their home countries by poverty, and forced to go to work in the North to provide the necessary sustenance to their families. These individual contributions cumulatively form a huge monetary gift to the economies of the South. According to immigra- tion activist Maria Jimenez (Mexico/USA), women and men of the “two-thirds” world have been engaged in gift giving through the one hundred billion dollars per year that they collectively send home in remittances of $100 to $300 every month or two, gleaned from the salaries they earn in the North. Strong networks based on family bonds facilitate this gift giving and maintain community in spite of distance. The migrants transform the experience of exclusion and exploitation into one of liberation for themselves and their families.

As Peggy Antrobus (Barbados) says, there is a community-building solidar- ity of gifts between those who have emigrated from the “Creole” culture of the Caribbean, who take or send home useful products from the North, and those at home; bonds are maintained in this way over great distances. At the time of the conference, Grenada, the island of her birth, had been devastated by a hurricane, and Antrobus knew that much gift giving would be necessary by the people of the Diaspora to restore the resources upon which the local economy was based. She believes that the gift economy needs to be recognized and affirmed or it will die, negated by the values of neo liberal, capitalist globalization.

The youngest speaker at the conference, Madeline Assetou Auditore, (Ivory Coast/Italy), eleven years old at the time of the conference, gives an impassioned plea for support for the poor children of the world who are suffering due to the selfishness of the rich.

Rabia Abdelkarim (Algeria/Senegal) describes women’s economic solidarity networks in Senegal where “the heart of the economy of women is relationship and they don’t want to lose the capacity of the circulation of the gift.” Calling upon traditional gift-based rituals and relationships of mutuality, women are trying to create an economy for life, in which values other than money, such as dignity, are primary.

The non-profit sector in the U.S. now counts for more than fifteen percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Tracy Gary (USA) talks from the point of view of a donor and philanthropic organizer. She tells the story of her decades of work in the women’s philanthropy movement and describes how she helped to create an exponential leap in women’s giving by empowering wealthy women to donate for social change.

Andrea Alvarado (Costa Rica) talks about FIRE, Feminist International Radio Endeavor, which is a women’s internet radio station and began as a project of the Foundation for a Compassionate Society. She discusses open source technology as a gift and gives an example of the way FIRE is sharing it with women.

Erella Shadmi (Israel) discusses the importance of forgiving, that is, shifting into a mode that is not one of retaliation/exchange/paying-back. The mode of for-giving concentrates attention on the unmet needs behind the offense, and attempts to satisfy them. Gift giving re-presents itself at many levels, shifting from theory to practice and vice versa. This presentation was given in tandem with a presentation by Palestinian Sylvia Shihadeh, which was not revised in time to be included in this volume. Together the two activists gave an example of peaceful collaboration and mutual respect, which was a much needed gift to all.

Linda Christiansen-Ruffman from Nova Scotia (Canada) looks at the gift economy features of women’s community work. She realizes there are millions of unseen gifts that women give to each other and to the women’s movement beyond Patriarchal Capitalism’s economic fundamentalism and its appropriation of the commons. However she wonders if recognizing these gifts will not make them more vulnerable to appropriation. The articles in the fourth section, “Gift Giving for Social Transformation,” present conscious strategic uses of giving in struggles for a better world, and point to ways of gift giving that can lead to social transformation. Hawaiian sovereignty activist, UN advisor and lawyer Mililani Trask opposes the commodification of knowledge and nature, the theft of intellectual property and bio piracy that are now being promoted by globalization. Traditional knowledge and relationships with nature are sacred for Indigenous people. The bounty of Earth must be part of the commons so that all may share in the gifts of the creator. She makes the important point that Indigenous women should be in the leadership of the move- ment for a gift economy. In fact, if they come from gift economies they have the experience of generalized social gift giving, which makes up the context in which their roles as mothers and daughters are formed.

Taking the point of view of the other is an important aspect of an other-ori- ented gift economy. By taking the point of view of our sisters in the South who have been on the receiving end of “our” economic policies of structural adjust- ment and globalization, women in the North can recognize that we are part of a much larger international movement, which can give us both hope and direction. Corinne Kumar (India/Tunisia) tells us that we need an imaginary beyond the universalisms of the dominant discourse, a new knowledge paradigm, which refuses to accept the one objective, rational, scientific discourse, cosmology and world view as the only world view. Kumar looks at the worldview of the future, of women of the South, the people on the margins, the South in the South and the South in the North. In it she finds the voices of radical dissent that can give rise to a new imaginary. They show us that the development models, the models of democracy, progress, human rights, “enduring freedom” that we have been “sold” are deeply destructive. In contrast they give us an alternative vision where people on the margins are subjects of their own history.

Marta Benevides (El Salvador) life-long peace activist, tells us how the right created the fear of losing the remittances in order to influence recent elections in her country. As a strategist she says we have to vision what we want, do discern- ment and manifest power by being the future now, being peace. We should give the gift of living for the ideals of peace, freedom and justice, not just of dying for them. She believes we should be peace, be the revolution, changing the situation locally, with peaceful actions of the people, appropriate to each place.

Paola Melchiori (Italy) worries about the gift economy bringing back women to their traditional roles as proposed by then Cardinal Ratzinger, proponent of women’s complementarity to men for spousal harmony, who is now the Pope of the Catholic Church. She believes that the only way to protect women from this subtle justification of enslavement is that they be freed from forced giving and practice gift giving beyond patriarchal control. Melchiori also finds hope in women mothering each other, creating relationships in the feminist movement as well as in alternative economic experiments, such as those created under women’s leadership during the recent crisis in Argentina. Melchiori grapples with ques- tions within the women’s movement, which must be resolved in order for it to assume the leadership role that is necessary for the gift economy and paradigm to prevail.

Frieda Werden (USA/Canada) of Women’s International News Gathering Service (WINGS), discusses the models of private and public ownership of radio in different countries and time periods, and suggests that non commercial com- munity radio and television can be seen as gifts, not just of information but of channels of information for and by the many. These channels run counter to the prevailing capitalist morality of information for sale and present a transformative model of co-muni-cation as “giving gifts together.”

Filmmaker Renea Roberts (USA) showed a clip from her film, Gifting It. In her article, she describes what the feeling is at Burning Man, the gift economy festival, which is based on the work of Lewis Hyde. There are now many such four-day festivals, where people share their works of art and imagination free, around the world. Participating in this social experiment it is possible to get a glimpse of what a world based on a gift economy might be like. The festivals thus “normalize” an alternative within the capitalist monolith.

Brackin Firecracker gives examples of activism from her own life, including examples of the innovative new genre of radical cheerleading. She describes the “Rhyzome Collective,” a group she helped to form of young activists, who are trying to create a living example of an alternative, while they are at the same time helping to build a global movement of resistance to oppression and injus- tice. She believes it is important to recognize that gift giving is what activists have been doing all along, and that through this recognition, their values are more generally validated, giving them greater power to satisfy impelling needs for social change.

Angela Miles (Canada) makes important points emphasizing the utility of the gift paradigm as a “critical and visionary perspective that is broad and deep enough to speak to all our struggles and move them all forward.” It lets us see for example that “in the non-patriarchal world we aspire to, men will not be mas- culated; their maleness will be lived through and not against their giving human qualities,” and “in a feminist movement seeking giving alternatives to exchange rather than escape from giving, remaining women’s sub-cultures and matriarchal Indigenous cultures are honoured as precursors of a more human future, not dismissed as vestiges of the past.

The “Feminist Gift Economy Statement” concludes this book. It was prepared by International Feminists for a Gift Economy, a loose-knit group, which began in Norway in 2001 at a meeting of women called by the nascent International Feminist University Network, makes a collective statement, which affirms the gift economy and critiques the market in the context of globalization. Members and non-members of this informal network have presented together at panels on the gift economy at international conferences such as the World Social Forums and Women’s Worlds meetings as well as other activist and academic conferences. Some of the authors of the articles in this book are members of the network. This statement was first presented by the group at their workshop at the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil, in 2002. See the website www.gift-economy.com for furthur information and to join the network list serve.

...In the light of the conference and the articles in this book, I invite the reader to seize the time and change the paradigm!

This is only the beginning.

Genevieve Vaughan is an independent researcher, activist, social change philanthropist, and founder of the feminist Austin, Texas-based Foundation for a Compassionate Society in operation from 1987–1998 and in a reduced form until 2005. She is the author of For-Giving: A Feminist Criticism of Exchange (1997) and Homo Donans (2006), and the editor of an issue of the Italian journal Athanor titled Il Dono/The Gift: A Feminist Perspective (2004). She is also the author of two children’s books, Mother Nature’s Children (1999) and Free/Not Free (2007), and has produced a Cd of her Songs for the Tree of Life. A documentary about her life, Giving for Giving: Not All Texans Are Like Bush, coproduced by Cara Griswold and Becky Hays of Full Circle Productions, has just been completed. Showings can be scheduled and copies ordered from www.givingforgiving.com. Vaughan’s books and many articles are available free on her website www.gift-economy.com. She is now based in Italy and devotes her time to writing and speaking about the gift economy. She has three daughters.


Patriarchy and Capitalism have similar values and motivations: competition for domination and the desire for accumulation in order to be the biggest, the one at the top. Like Capitalism, patriarchy is systemic. I discuss this more in the text and in my article below.

New information has come out about the numbers of Native people killed by diseases brought by the Europeans. In fact the lands seemed uninhabited because the people who lived there had all died due to epidemics of measles and smallpox brought from Europe. So first, the Europeans were carriers of diseases, which destroyed the Indig- enous people. They ignored the extent of the Indigenous civilization because they did not know it. Secondly they attacked the remaining Native people ferociously, taking over their land, eliminating them as competitors. They developed a worldview, which hid the rapacity of their behaviour from themselves, and this worldview was added to their original ignorance. Similarly we do not consciously recognize the gift economy, which we are actually practicing and we also attack and exploit it so we are in denial about it, and this denial is added to our lack of recognition of it.

Barbara Mann tells us with her characteristic wit that the word “How” with which Native people typically greeted the Europeans meant “Go away! ”

Examples of matriarchies range from the relatively small group of the Mosuo in China (See the television program Frontline/World 2005, “The Women’s Kingdom”) to the Minankabau in Sumatra, who number some four million (Sanday 1998, 2002), from tribes such as the Navajo, the Hopi and the Iroquois in Northern America (Allen 1986; Mann 2000), and the Khasi in Northern India, the Arawak in South America, and the Cuna in Central America (Goettner-Abendroth 1991, 2000). There are many more such societies but intense polemics have raged around them because of the threat women’s egalitarian leadership poses to patriarchy. As Paula Gunn Allen says “The physical and cultural genocide of American Indian tribes is and was mostly about patriarchal fear of gynocracy” (1986: 3). By defining Matriarchal leadership as egalitarian, not “women’s rule,” Paula Gunn Allen (1986), Heidi Goettner-Abendroth (1991), Barbara Mann (2000), and Peggy Sanday (1981, 2002) have reframed the discussion so that the non- hierarchical and inclusive leadership style of women can be included among the options for social transformation.

Studies of cooperation and “partnership” (Eisler1988) propose that a better world can be built on cooperation by diminishing dominator values. The discussion of the gift economy and patriarchal capitalism attempts to find where cooperative (partner- ship) and competitive (dominator) values and behaviours come from and to use this knowledge in constructing the alternative.

The Bielefeld School in Germany, consisting of Maria Mies, Veronika Bennholdt- Thomsen and Claudia von Werlhof among others, considers work beyond wage labour, such as women’s life-giving subsistence labour, the source of capital accumulation. I agree with this approach but I look at this labour as gift labour, which I believe establishes a common thread of continuity with other kinds of gift giving.

Because exchange is adversarial it creates a focus on the individual and an ideology of the individual as opposed to others or “the masses.” In a society based on the gift economy the individual would appear different, more inclusive of others. I am not proposing the end of individuality but that it develop on a very different basis.

An early exception making the connection with mothering is Helene Cixous (Cixous and Clement 1975). Among the men writing about the gift economy are Marcel Mauss (1990 [1923-24]), Bronisalw Malinowsky (1922), Lewis Hyde (1979), Alain Caille (1998) Jacques Godbout (1992), Caille and Godbout (1998), the MAUSS Revue publishing since 1982, as well as Jacques Derrida (1992), Pierre Bourdieu (1990) Serge Latouche (2004) and many others. On the other hand some women have written extensively on the “love” economy, the “informal” economy and the commons without connecting them specifically to gift economies. See for example, Hazel Henderson (1991, 1999). Others have theorized the care economy within the framework of the market (Nancy Folbre 1994, 2001).

There are important women’s organizations in all of these areas and women are also very much involved in mixed gender movements, often doing much of the gift giving work under male leadership.

In this they are similar to the opposition and threat to the institutions created in Europe by the Nature religion of witchcraft.

For example, initiatives for economic justice, for equal pay for comparable work, for a living wage, for Fair Trade instead of Free Trade, initiatives for community currencies, for socially useful investing, for solidarity economics, and experiments like the Work Less Party, provide alternative models, help to create a less monolithic economy and empower grassroots agency. These attempts at partial change can make it easier to transition to more radical change without violence. I believe it is important not to consider them the final goals but steps along the path to a gift economy.

Since the male genitals are the physiological “possessions” by which males are assigned to their category in opposition to females who lack those possessions, it seems that having greater possessions can place them in a superior category generally. More on gender categorization can be found in my article in this book.

African gift economies as the “other” of European Patriarchal Capitalism were plun- dered and their members became “property” through exchange, their gifts turned toward the slave “owners.”

For example Derrida (1992) sees gifts as almost impossible because if they are done for recognition, and even if they are recognized, they become exchanges. Isn’t the lack of recognition of housework then a proof that it is a unilateral gift?

Godbout and Caille assert that it is not necessary for the gift to be pure.

Matriarchal gift giving is egalitarian because it is not invested with Patriarchal motiva- tions. There is less occasion for a struggle for recognition in egalitarian gift economies because recognition is easily given and passed on. (see Trask and Kuokkanen in this volume) We might look at the give-away competition of potlatch of Native Ameri- cans of the Northwest as the struggle to be recognized as the prototype however, and similar to the struggle that must have been going on at the time consciously or unconsciously between the Western and the Indigenous prototypes of the human.

Similarly, after the 9/11 attack on the Twin Towers, there were many people on line calling for an investigation of the root causes of the attack in the poverty and injustice the U.S. had helped to create through globalization and wars in the Middle East. It was hoped that by giving aid to impoverished people of Afghanistan these causes could have been alleviated. Instead, a culprit was found to punish, i.e., with whom to “exchange,” retaliating for the harm the U.S. had “received.” If anything this punishment aggravated the conditions from which the original attack arose. That is, if the attack was not an “inside job” as many suspect.

For Marx (1930 [1867]) this is abstract labour value. We can say it is labour abstracted from gift giving. The concentration on the need of the other and the creativity involved in filing it, including personal details and tastes, along with the value transmitted, are left aside for this abstraction. In the market a product derives its quantity of value from the relation of similarity or difference with regard to the value of all other products within a given branch of production. These are abstract and general relations. The quantity of exchange value that products have depends upon the socially necessary labour time required to produce them (also calculated abstractly) at a given level of technology and productivity of labour. When the exchanger sells the product to another, the return is not a gift but only an exchange value, which s/he then passes on in a new exchange. The “expenditure of living labour” creates value. But unless it has a direct receiver no gift value is transmitted by it because gift value is the implied value of the other. Marx’s metaphors, such as the commodity being “congealed labour” show how hard it is to imagine labour materialized as value in something when it is separated from the receiver of the gift. Such labour is the service or gift-production, which does not reach its destination because it is stopped by exchange or privatization. In her article in this book, Jeanette Armstrong tells us about a word in her Okanagan Syilx language that means to “stop the giving, to put an obstacle between the giving and yourself.”

Retailers use gift giving to promote sales with gimmicks; this is a gift used for the purposes of exchange. One can of course buy something for someone else as a gift; this is a gift beyond the exchange interaction itself.

Women seem to want to include men in their meetings and events while men typi- cally do not include women. This perhaps shows that the women are practicing the gift logic, which is inclusive. They identify a possible need of men to be included and try to give them that gift while the men are practicing the identity logic, which is categorical and exclusive and does not stimulate them to perceive a need of women to be included. Even in the cases where they do perceive the need, they usually do not feel compelled to satisfy it. By including men, women run the risk of embracing those who are practicing an opposing and oppositional logic.

The practice in some countries of allowing girl children to starve while boy children are fed demonstrates how gifts and the implication of value can be withheld. The girl dies because to her parents and the wider society she is valueless and unvalued (and because she is allowed to die she is valueless).

The idea of a prototype or best example of a kind for the formation of categories can be found in the field of cognitive linguistics. See George Lakoff (1987) and John Taylor (2003).

I have discussed this process extensively in my books For-Giving (1997) and Homo donans (2006), and the reader can find more about it in my article in this volume. The Freudian mythical murder of the father by his sons can be read as the overtaking of the prototype position by boys, which, seen in this way, is a moment of the early concept forming process in the child’s gender development, not a real historical mur- der. Even if he overcomes the father as the prototype however, the boy still does not have the access to the gift economy he had when he was identified with his mother. In matriarchies and gift economies he never loses this access.

Where male chiefs compete to be the greatest gift givers—the most mothering men.

For example, look at the gift perspective and the issue of abortion rights. The idea that women can choose not to undertake years of maternal gift labour demonstrates that gift giving (or not) is a rational choice, that not giving birth, choosing not to give, can be based on other-orientation (recognition of one’s own limitations as a giver in a context of scarcity for example), thus giving value and authority to the person who considers or takes that alternative. The ability to choose abortion gives back to women some of the authority over gift giving that Patriarchal religions have taken away from them for centuries. Moreover if the masculated male gender iden- tity rejects the mother and imposes an identity based on not-giving, the ability of women (mothers) not to give, challenges the male gender construction by removing its oppositional cornerstone. The question of abortion is not so much a question of the right of the fetus to life (a right, which seems to end at birth anyway) but the right of the mother to give or not to give, and her authority over the gift logic itself. If religions (and governments) lose their authority over gift giving, what authority do they have left?

Though much has been written on women and language the writers have mostly taken their points of departure from within linguistics, semiotics, the philosophy of language as provided by Patriarchal academia. Similarly feminist economists have continued to work within the market paradigm. Writing about language, feminists discuss for instance how women use language differently from men (Lakoff, R. 1975; Tannen 1990) or how to produce an ecriture feminine (Cixous and Clement 1975). What is needed is a different conception of language itself in tandem with a different conception of the economy, reformulating both in terms of the gift paradigm.

Initiatives as widely divergent as the Bolivarian Revolution of Hugo Chavez, which provides free health care and education to the poor and free petroleum products to poor countries and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, demonstrate gift giving being practiced by men “at the top.” I would say that even when men do gift giving at this elevated level they are still practicing the economy of mothering (and Chavez was probably positively influenced by his Indigenous heritage) although the fact of being men in the prototype position again obscures the mothering model. For masculated men this is perhaps an apotheosis of what they gave up as children, the “return” of what in the Freudian sense has been “removed.” This “return” in which the men as philanthropists, become even more gift giving than the mothers whose identity they had to relinquish, paradoxically becomes the reward for acceding to the “one” position. It is in this sense that Patriarchal Capitalist philanthropy should be read. See the excellent book The Better Angels of Capitalism by Andrew Herman (1998). This also is the moral veneer of such organizations as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Patriarchal control of gift giving is normalized once more.

The group of the MAUSS (Mouvement Anti-Utilitariste des Sciences Sociales) Revue critiques what they call “utilitarianism” but they continue to talk about “gift exchanges.” An important critique of “economics” can be found in the writing of Serge Latouche (2004).

The idea for the temple had its beginnings in in the 1960s when I went to Egypt on vacation with my husband. The tour guide showed us the statue of the goddess Sekhmet, and said that she was the goddess of fertility, and that by making her a promise, a woman could get pregnant. I did that, promising her a temple and that very week became pregnant. I knew I had to keep the promise and finally bought land near the nuclear test site in the Nevada dessert where the was temple built in 1992, and after which I gave the land back to the Western Shoshone. Cynthia Burkhardt was the temple priestess for the first year, and Patricia Pearlman was the second, from 1993 to 2004. Statues of Sekhmet and Mother Earth, by Indigenous sculptor Marsha Gomez, grace the temple along with smaller images of goddesses from many cultures. The temple and its guest house are free to visitors according to the principles of the gift economy. The present priestess is Anne Key (see www.sekhmettemple.com). Patricia Pearlman died of cancer in March 2006. We mourn her passing.

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