Gift economy

mode of exchange where valuables are given without rewards

A gift economy or gift culture is a system of exchange where valuables are not sold, but rather given without an explicit agreement for immediate or future rewards. Social norms and customs govern giving a gift in a gift culture; although there is some expectation of reciprocity, gifts are not given in an explicit exchange of goods or services for money, or some other commodity or service. This contrasts with a barter economy or a market economy, where goods and services are primarily explicitly exchanged for value received.

Quotes edit

  • The exchange relationships we choose determine whether we share them as a common gift or sell them as a private commodity. A great deal rests on that choice. For the greater part of human history, and in places in the world today, common resources were the rule. But some invented a different story, a social construct in which everything is a commodity to be bought and sold. The market economy story has spread like wildfire, with uneven results for human well-being and devastation for the natural world. But it is just a story we have told ourselves and we are free to tell another, to reclaim the old one. One of these stories sustains the living systems on which we depend. One of these stories opens the way to living in gratitude and amazement at the richness and generosity of the world. One of these stories asks us to bestow our own gifts in kind, to celebrate our kinship with the world. We can choose. If all the world is a commodity, how poor we grow. When all the world is a gift in motion, how wealthy we become.
  • A gift is the transfer of a good without an explicit specification of a quid pro quo. The good can be a tangible thing or money, but it also can be intangible, as in the form of time, attention, information or knowledge. A present is a gift and so may be the attention that one person ‘gives’ another, or the time that a person donates to an art institute as a volunteer. Usually a gift entails reciprocity: the giver expects something in return for the gift given. Friends expect friendly gestures in return for their friendly gestures; donors expect some form of appreciation or another; and those who give presents at Christmas expect to receive presents in return. The key to understanding the phenomenon of the gift is the nature of the reciprocity involved

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