[-empyre-] empyre Digest, Vol 53, Issue 6

davin heckman davinheckman at gmail.com
Tue Apr 7 12:32:43 EST 2009

I think this might be why gift giving can be so subversive, because if
we were to resign ourselves, say, to viewing the cash nexus as the
only medium for exchange...  gift giving implies that the cash nexus
is incomplete or insufficient.

If you give a gift (say, you give someone a copy of your favorite
book) and it returns to you with an expected equivalent compensation
from the recipient ($27.95), then this is a business transaction.  If
the gift returns to you in all of the various ways that gifts can...
you strengthen a bond of friendship, you feel a little bit better,
maybe even you hope that someday someone will give you a gift (maybe a
mix tape or their favorite music or a copy of THEIR favorite book), or
whatever...  it cheapens the whole idea of economics by suggesting
that something else matters more.  Say you are a jerk and you neglect
to say "thank you" for a gift, this implies that the money or the time
spent is not an issue....  it's a fundamental "lack of respect" or
something social that you have screwed up.  It's not fraud, theft, or
a crime against property....  it is an offense against a human being,
it hurts people's feelings, it disrupts the social order, it is
inconsiderate, etc.  Or, the giver might not even mind.  In any case,
at the very most it allows capitalism a role in human relations, but
it is not the dominant role.

On the other hand, there are a great many "human" situations which
require gift giving, but which have been fairly formalized and are
being turned into transactions.  Weddings, for instance.  The
historical role of wedding gifts was to help the new couple establish
a home.  To help streamline this process for the benefit of guests,
people started creating registries.  And today, people....  even those
who already have a home together...  just request a bunch of new stuff
that they didn't get around to buying yet....  and they hope that in
exchange for a superfluous ceremony, you will buy them a specific set
of dishes which is nicer than the decent set they already own.  I am
looking forward to the day when all weddings will be handled by
paypal....  you can pay money in small denominations to see virtual
images of what the wedding would look like if it were to take place,
and even pay extra to be in the wedding party.  The money could even
be placed in escrow in case of divorce.  And then, after five years of
virtually wedded bliss, you can take the money out of the escrow
account and have a live action ceremony.  I know I am being cynical
about these things.  And the truth is, I actually like weddings a
great deal.  But I am a sentimental person, so I am suspicious about
those things which turn the objects of my sentiment into commodities.
It's not the couples that upset me...  it's this whole industry which
says, "OK, now, you are supposed to act like this.  He is supposed to
act this way.  She is supposed to be like such and such."  (I even
went to a wedding where we had to take all kinds of pictures of things
that didn't happen during the wedding.  Like walking down a flight of
stairs and pretending that we were waving to people that weren't
there, over and over again, and lots of people yelling about how to
look comfortable and pleased.  It was surreal.  Think of mushrooms in
painful shoes, and that about is what it was like.)  But to bring it
back to gift giving, here you have the market trying to turn weddings
into cash by selling it as a particular type of reality show.

Sorry to ramble.  Good thing there are no page limits.


On Mon, Apr 6, 2009 at 7:40 PM, Cinzia Cremona
<cinziacremona at googlemail.com> wrote:
>>As for reciprocity, for Derrida, there is a fundamental dissymetry between
>> myself and the Other, as well as among myself and the "other >others" with
>> whom I share social concourse: the gift I am expected to hand over to the
>> deity is one which will not be reciprocated, but >refused, causing me to be
>> remunerated in a posthumous order where spirirual riches accumulate, but
>> only if I forget.  With DNA in the place >of the Other, does this dissymetry
>> remain, or is the playng field leveled?
>>For Derrida, to give is to forget that one has given: but can we forget our
>> investments?
> I am glad I haven't missed this latest discussion, although it is hard to
> find the time to follow the conversation as it deserves.
> In relation to the passage above, I was thinking about Derrida's contretemps
> - when I give, I do not forget my gift, but I do not know when I will see
> what the return might be ... or from what direction it might come. How about
> reading dissymetry and lack of reciprocity as a possible wider form of
> circulation of capital, and of a larger variety of forms of capital? The
> gifts I receive might not be comparable to the gifts I have given in terms
> of a certain value system, but I might still depend on them, or they might
> be priceless from a different perspective. Also, I find it quite plausible
> to expect gifts from those I have not given to, and have no intention or
> capacity to give to.
> --
> Cinzia
> Visions in the Nunnery
> 22 to 31 May 2009
> openvisions.org
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> http://www.subtle.net/empyre

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