Monday, February 12, 2007

The commodity will not be bracketed

[And] works of art exist simultaneously in two economies, a market economy and a gift economy.

The cardinal difference between gift and commodity exchange is that a gift establishes a feeling-bond between two people, whereas the sale of a commodity leaves no necessary connection. I go into a hardware store, pay the man for a hacksaw blade, and walk out. I may never see him again. The disconnectedness is, in fact, a virtue of the commodity mode. We don't want to be bothered, and if the clerk always wants to chat about the family, I'll shop elsewhere. I just want a hacksaw blade. But a gift makes a connection. There are many examples, the candy or cigarette offered to a stranger who shares a seat on the plane, the few words that indicate goodwill between passengers on the late-night bus. Jonathan Lethem, The Ecstasy of Influence.

This may help us understand why calling for the commodity-driven markets to have the relationship modalities of gift economies remains a call that goes unanswered.



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