Gift Economy 1


My previous post, The Most Important Political Question That Nobody is Asking, got me to thinking about societies that are not based on competing for resources. The revelations about how Christopher Columbus committed genocide when he came across such a society was, no doubt, part of what got me thinking along these lines.

I started to wonder if anthropologists have studied these societies with a mind to exactly this difference, competing for resources and not having to compete for resources.

A Google search on anthropology charitable societies brought me to the Wikipedia article Gift economy.

The nature of gift economies forms the subject of a foundational debate in anthropology. Anthropological research into gift economies began with Bronisław Malinowski’s description of the Kula ring in the Trobriand Islands during World War I. The Kula trade appeared to be gift-like since Trobrianders would travel great distances over dangerous seas to give what were considered valuable objects without any guarantee of a return. Malinowski’s debate with the French anthropologist Marcel Mauss quickly established the complexity of “gift exchange” and introduced a series of technical terms such as reciprocity, inalienable possessions, and prestation to distinguish between the different forms of exchange.

I don’t have time right now to do further research or even read the Wikipedia article, but I think I am on to something. We could learn how to adapt to the situation that is creeping up on us. That situation is the time when automation allows all of society’s needs for good and services to be fulfilled without the need for anybody’s labor.

I think I looked for the wrong entry point in my research. The Wikipedia article Post-scarcity economy is more of what I want to research.

Post-scarcity is a theoretical economy in which most goods can be produced in great abundance with minimal human labor needed, so that they become available to all very cheaply or even freely.


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One thought on “Gift Economy

  • SteveG Post author

    Now that I have had a chance to read the Wikipedia article, I am not as impressed with it as I thought I would be. It is not what I am looking for.