Thursday, January 31, 2013

David Graeber — Give It Away

One such is a group of intellectuals who go by the rather unwieldy name of Mouvement Anti-Utilitariste dans les Sciences Sociales, or MAUSS, and who have dedicated themselves to a systematic attack on the philosophical underpinnings of economic theory. The group take their inspiration from the great early-20th century French sociologist Marcel Mauss, whose most famous work, The Gift (1925), was perhaps the most magnificent refutation of the assumptions behind economic theory ever written. At a time when "the free market" is being rammed down everyone's throat as both a natural and inevitable product of human nature, Mauss' work - which demonstrated not only that most non-Western societies did not work on anything resembling market principles, but that neither do most modern Westerners - is more relevant than ever. While Francophile American scholars seem unable to come up with much of anything to say about the rise of global neoliberalism, the MAUSS group is attacking its very foundations.
In These Times
Give It Away
David Graeber


googleheim said...

So true ...

the market it rigged

the currency markets show it - especially when we have seen it since 2008 here at this blog - Europe teeters and the Euro should have at least hit parity with the USD.

none got stopped in the investment banker side of walnut street

interest rate setting ? market driven ?

when in fact we have seen here at this blog that interest rates are set where they want them despite any hoopla from Volcker or market analyst

widmerpool said...

I'm glad he took on the barter myth.

But I don't find his anarchy views any more palatable than the mainstream libertarian views.

Indian chiefs giving stuff away is relevant to our modern economy how?

Tom Hickey said...

Indian chiefs giving stuff away is relevant to our modern economy how?

Actually it is. In tribal societies the hero and natural leader is the great distributor in addition to the great accumulator. Tribal leaders know it is about flow. And they teach it, too. This is what I was taught.

Remember the line in Lawrence of Arabia when Lawrence questions the tribal chief as the great accumulator and he responds, "I am a river to my people," and all the tribespeople cheer wildly.

There was a similar situation in India, where the maharajas supported the festivals and in India there are a lot of festivals. The funding was "government spending."

Even in our society philanthropy is considered a duty to some degree, and many wealthy people rise to it, which is commendable but insufficient.

The basic idea of the gift economy lies at the basis of Marx's vision of from each according to ability and from each according to need, and Dumas' all for one and one for all. It is also the teaching of perennial wisdom about transcending self-interest, found in all religion and wisdom traditions, e.g., as the golden rule.

But in order to live at this level, the general level of consciousness has to rise correspondingly, since it is the basis for the institutional arrangements and cultural rituals of a society.

It is possible to evaluate the advancement of a society on the spectrum of the law of the jungle at one extreme and holistic community, in which everyone lives for everyone else, at the other.

Sages from time immemorial worldwide have taught that there is an enlightened, truly human way to live and an animal existence. Human beings are called to the former. They have also set forth the means to do so, but the chief requirements involve spiritual advancement rather than merely following rules mechanically.

By following rules mechanically it is possible for a society to avoid major pitfalls, but it cannot rise to the level of enlightened society. Cultivation is required, along with "grace."

Grace is not given, for the reservoir is always full. It is only necessary to open the tap. Pursuit of narrow self-interest tightens down the tap. Transcending self-interest, first by realizing that genuine self-interest is bound up in other-interest, opens the sluice gate.