The Gift Economy

It is often said that the exchange is the atomic unit of the market. You give the grocery store money in exchange for food. You give the bank money to hold in exchange for interest. You give your employer labor in exchange for income.

Isn’t an exchange composed of two actions, however? I give the grocery store money. The grocery store gives me food. I give the bank money. The bank gives me money back. I do my job. I get paid. Splitting the atom, we arrive at a new fundamental unit: the gift.

The market, from a gift perspective, is like a jazz session. It’s not this in return for that. I hear a nice riff from you. I’m inspired to play myself. We have exchanged a transaction mindset for an offering mindset.

Or was it an exchange, after all? ;)

Written on May 23, 2020