One of the contentions of the FeministMovement is that women's work is often obscured or hidden. It isn't noticed or noted or celebrated or even acknowledged by our "patriarchal" culture. Or fields such as economics.

The feminist / gifting paradigm researchers are likewise keen to point out that "gifting" (which they see as a fundamental human urge) has equally been obscured (if not repressed) by patriarchal culture.

So here are some gifting cultures worth drawing attention to.

  • within families. All the non-exchange, unconditional care given by mothers to children etc.

: of course, this can be spun as KinSelection (or my preferred term, KinOrientedAltruism) which it partly is, but let's not be naive EvolutionaryPsychologists

  • within local communities. Plenty of it here. Favors for friends and neighbours etc.
  • emigrant workers sending money back to their communities. A speaker at the recent conference noted that Mexican migrant workers in the US send more money back to families and communities of origin than is invested in Mexico by US capitalists trying to make a profit. In other words, the gifting part of the economy is bigger than the exchange part. And such gifts go, not just to relatives, so a more generalized, cultural sense of community needs to invoked to explain, rather than just a KinOrientedAltruism one.
  • BurningMan (see the GiftingIt video for more details)
  • Philanthropy. Yeah, we all see philanthropy. But the general perception is that it's a temporary fix (because it's not sustainable) or that it's actually wasted or that it's charity which relieves the problems of those who can't help themselves. But how much do we actually need philanthropy in modern society and economy?

My own thoughts

  • clearly, FreeSoftware is a gift community. And this is why it's so fascinating to think about the role of EricRaymond's CathedralAndBazaar. The feminists say that patriarchy, either through design or ideological blinkers, is continuously trying to obscure gifting. And here's Raymond providing a text which is all about trying to downplay or obscure the role of gift-giving in the succesful FreeSoftwarePhenomenon, and to spin it as really, just good old-fashioned, self-interested exchange in a market for egoboo. Raymond is too smart to know that that isn't what he was doing. And certainly ideologically committed enough to want to.
  • teaching. As noted on ArnoldKlingOnMovingToTheRightOutsideAcademia, teaching also fits the gifting model. Teachers need to care for the epistemic wellbeing of their students, to pay attention to their needs and find ways to fulfill them, without receiving anything explicitly from them.
  • inside companies. A department which works well is basically one where people are always helping out anywhere they see a chance rather than entering into individualistic bargaining. The key here is RonaldCoase's idea of TransactionCosts. The usual calculation is that transaction costs are those of allocation via hierachical planning or market exchange. But spontaneous donation has a lower transaction cost than either hence one virtue of companies might be that they create bubbles of gift-economics within which there are especially low transaction costs. Of course, this goes wrong when employees can't leave their individualistic "exchange mentality" at the door and start fighting turf-wars and making only co-operating when they see something in return. Hence bad companies are a nightmare of inefficiency. But it's exchange which is responsible. (Contrast AlternativesToCompanies)

See also :

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