When I first heard about a “gift economy” I thought it simply meant giving things to each other. Like you give trinkets for birthday presents and old clothes to Goodwill Industries. How could this be an “economy”? Little did I realize that a gifting culture brings with it a whole new perspective on values, capital, who is notable within the social order, connections and interdependency, and what is important to people.
In his 1979 book The Gift, Lewis Hyde speaks of gift exchange as 'erotic' commerce. He is referring to
eros, the principle of attraction, union, involvement which binds together.
By contrast, a market economy is an example of logos: reason and logic. Without gift exchange we are without eros, that basic element that attracts us to others and binds us together....
When my dad gave me the sawzall, that first transaction could still have gone either way: into my personal capital or into the gift culture. The second transaction – my choice to hand the sawzall over for a friend’s use – is the transaction which defines it as a gift. The hau has been multiplied. Rather than holding it close, I have sought to multiply its spirit, and distribute that spirit, spreading it around my community.
My sawzall-borrowing friend multiplied it further, because he used the tool to make repairs in a garden that grows food for the needy and is open to the general public. The hau extended still further.Read it at Transition United States
Hau to be erotic: going deeper into the gift economy
by Joanne Poyourow