The Aphrodite Agenda: Mankind is Slowly Becoming Womankind

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Where unilateral gift giving creates other orientation, bonding, trust and mutuality, exchange creates ego-orientation and adversarial positions, suspicion, and hostility or detachment as each exchanger tries to surreptitiously make the other give more in the supposedly equal exchange. Moreover, the categorial identity of the exchangers gives rise to their indifference to each other, in that anyone can substitute for anyone else in their roles.

In gift giving, however, the interactors give and receive in a personal way not just according to an accepted capitalist level of production but according to their individual capacities and needs.

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  4. Thus gift giving-and-receiving is creative and informative while exchange can become repetitive and standardized. The atten- tion of givers to needs creates sensitivity to the other. Emotional responses are necessary to map the needs. Exchange, which instrumentalizes needs, promotes desensitization, and emotional detachment.

    In a context of scarcity, hierarchy, competition, and exchange it is easy for gift giving to become manipulative. This possibility causes receivers to become cautious and defensive and makes exchange appear to be a clearer interaction. Sometimes the receiver has more need for respect, and for independence, than for the gift itself, and the giver has to recognize and satisfy that need by not giv- ing. Marketing is manipulative in that it uses the investigation of needs and the stimulation of desires to determine what products people will buy. Although advertisers themselves probably do not realize it, they are selling exchange itself to us as more valuable than gift giving.

    Moreover, exchange has become the main basic logical pattern that we see, so that all human reasoning seems to depend upon categorization, identity and evaluation—not on the transmission of value.

    creativity « Under The Table

    That is, the fulfillment of these needs can already be categorized as pertinent to exchange when they are identified. Needs which are not pertinent to exchange are not categorized as effective demand and are thus ignored. Without a multi-level shifting of attention toward needs as such, the transitivity that comes through the free satisfaction of needs cannot be seen.

    Nor can the wide range of gifts and the implications of value that these gifts confer be recognized.

    Mankind Is Slowly Becoming Womankind

    Gift giving is the interpretative key that unlocks the mysteries of transitivity, in- teractivity, value and community. Many new areas of needs are created by human interaction and this is also the case for the interactions of the market. New needs arise according to the ways society is arranged, and thus the possibility for new kinds of gift giving also arises. In fact the gift is such a fertile and creative principle that it can never be completely dominated by exchange and it re-presents itself again and again in different ways. In a market-based society, the need for money also provides the possibility for the gift of money.

    The need for jobs allows one to think of the job as a gift given by the employer. The needs created by the exploitation of the global South open the possibility for immigrants to send home billions of dollars as gift-remittances. Each of these examples demonstrates gift giving within a market situation and there are many others. These gifts would not be needed of course and therefore would not be gifts, without the market. Many other kinds of gifts exist before, beyond and around the market. In fact the market floats in a sea of gifts. Communication, which is an important human capability, begins in each life between mother or other primary care-giver and child, and is deeply connected to gift giving.

    Indeed, giving goods to needs without an exchange can be con- sidered material communication in the sense that the bodies and therefore also the minds of the receivers are created through this interaction and they become the actual community members. Givers, who are also receivers, are altered and specified by their giving. The receivers are nurtured and brought into social life in specific ways, becoming givers in their turn.


    The vulnerability and dependence of human children requires others to give unilaterally to them in order to ensure their survival. Mothering, usually done by women, is thus a prime example of gift giving behaviour, readily available to be perceived by all, which is also a necessary though always historically located social constant. At the same time the mothers, the source of this potential implication of value—and the rest of society as well—do not give value to mothering and to gift giving by women. They do give value to and nurture males. Identity logic regarding gender can thus exclude girls from the category of those to whom the mother will transitively give value by satisfying their needs.

    In Patriarchy it appears that in order to achieve their masculine identity, boys must not have the same behaviour as their mothers. When children are small, the free satisfaction of their needs by their mothers is a very large part of their exis- tence. Thus the mandate to be unlike their mothers turns little boys away from a behaviour, which is crucial for them at the time and which carries the logic of the gift.

    They are required to be non-mothering, non-gift giving in order to fulfill the gender identity, which is imposed upon them by the society at large, the language, the father, other boys and even the mother herself. The father, who went through this process himself as a child, replaces the mother as the prototype of the human for the boy child. In Indigenous cultures, especially matriarchies, which have gift economies, the process of becoming male can be very different from the process in Patriarchal cultures.

    This is because there is no clean break between the gift giving, which occurs in childhood and the larger scale gift giving that takes place in the society. The transitive logic of the gift is not seen as limited to the relationship between mothers and infants or pushed into the subconscious mind, but it is expressed consciously and explicitly in the social relations within the community.

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    Therefore the boy child does not have to give up gift giving in order to create his masculine identity. Such circulations of gifts as potlatch Mauss 24 or the Kula of the Trobriand Islanders Malinowsky can be seen as a kind of social bricolage, a way of collectively and ceremonially thinking through the logic of the gift and exploring its implications. Different kinds of gifts and giving create different kinds of bonds between givers and receivers, and value is implied and passed around from person to person or from one group to another, through gift circulation.

    Giving to and receiving from nature is practiced as sacred communication. When there is no market based on exchange, but the society as a whole functions by direct giving and receiving, there is a continuity for both males and females with the caregiving-and-receiving that they learn from their mothers from in- fancy on up. The kinds of behaviours and qualities cooperation, sensitivity, and respectfulness appropriate to gift economies therefore have a survival value in those economies.

    Though this non-category is identified especially with women, who give to the privileged category and also give value to it by implication.

    The kinds of behaviours and qualities competition, domination, and greediness fomented by Patriarchal Capitalism have survival value in market economies. Traditions of food sharing and hospitality that continue to exist inside market economies maintain some of the qualities of the gift mode and provide a sense of significance and community in spite of the general context of exchange.

    For example controlling the flow of gifts functions in a similar way, whether it takes place in a family, a community, a business, a government agency, a religious or academic institution, or between the Global South and the North. The market mechanism itself is a kind of pump siphoning gifts from one area to another.

    This pump works because it is invested with the motives of Patriarchy, which promote the masculated agenda of striving to have the most in order to be the prototype, the one at the top. Like pistons, some go up only because others go down. The possibilities for achieving this top position vary historically, but typically involve violence, which in Patriarchal Capitalism becomes systemic economic violence.

    Wars on the large historical scale, cultural violence on the level of class and race and internationally , and violence against women and children on the intimate interpersonal scale uphold the flow of gifts to the top and impose the market mechanisms. In fact, war is really the replay of the market on another plane. Skyscrapers in the modern metropolis have a similar function. With Capitalism the rewards for success include the possibility of becoming the masculated human prototype by accumulating stratospheric wealth or by stardom of various other kinds.

    Hypervisibility of the few is opposed to the invisibility of the many. Human history in the West has not really begun because from the beginning of Patriarchy until now it has been only the history of an artificial parasitic male gender construction, which leaves out the agency of the rest of humanity.

    The Aphrodite Agenda: Mankind Is Slowly Becoming Womankind

    Perhaps we could say it is the history of a disease, which infects or destroys all the healthy cultures it meets. Western history on the basis of the gift economy will have to begin over again, and try to link with the gift cultures, which have preserved a memory of what came before and an example of what could be. Women mothered by women do not go through masculation and, though they can succeed in the Patriarchal Capitalist system, their capacity for gift practice usually remains more or less intact because it is not nipped in the bud as happens in masculation.

    Women should therefore be the non-patriarchal leaders of a movement to dismantle Patriarchal Capitalism and replace it with a gift economy. We may be forced to begin history on a gift basis by a traumatic crash of the market, by environmental devastation or nuclear war. If we start now however, we can try to extricate society from this perilous situation, methodically and carefully like a person climbing down from a tree—instead of falling. We can avoid the impending devastation, satisfying the needs of the future by stepping back from present conditions. It is not enough to consume less in the North however.

    We have to change the market mechanisms that take advantage of this consumption and of the gifts that feed it. By severing the connections between the many instances of the gift logic Capitalist Patriarchy has clouded the picture of what may be done as an alternative, making the gift paradigm unavailable to conscious choice and elaboration as the basis of a social project.

    It has achieved this also by considering gift giving instinctual, as opposed to the rationality of exchange, or super human, the province of saints and madonnas, while denying its presence in the rest of life. In this way the gift logic appears special, something not for the common people, something that religions can seize as their own. Authority regarding gift giving is turned over to male priests and Patriarchs, who legislate it, and who judge whether people—women actual gift sources —are acting in an altruistic way.