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Gi*s and Exchange

Carrier (2012) A handbook of economic anthropology ch.16
Wilk & Cligge?, L. (1996) Economies and cultures. Founda:ons of Economic
Anthropology ch.6

Handout untuk MK Antropologi Ekonomi, Dep. Antropologi FISIP UI, 17 & 19 September 2019
© Semiarto Aji Purwanto

Barter, gi*, and exchange

•  Barter typically denotes the direct exchange of goods or
services for each other without the medium of money
•  Heady: all exchanges have two aspects: first as transfer of
goods or services, and second as a sign of the nature of the
relaXonship between the exchange partners
•  the prime focus of interest for the exchange partners is in the
goods and services themselves rather than the social
relaXonships arising from the exchange
•  where social relaXons are the prime focus of interest the
transacXon is usually referred to as gi* exchange
•  ‘transacXon cost’ and ‘coincidence of wants’
© Semiarto Aji Purwanto

Gi* and gi*ing

•  Common in contemporary western society
•  … tendency of Western economists to leave gi*ing out of
their analysis and focus enXrely on monetary exchange
•  A gi* is never simply one or the other, which is why it is such
an effecXve and unique tool in all cultures for moving things
around and creaXng social connecXons and demonstraXng
moral value.
•  Anthropologists did
© Semiarto Aji Purwanto

•  FuncXonalist: self-interested lens of analysis would show how
gi*s and exchange lead to the redistribuXon of resources,
which benefits the organizers of those exchanges
•  Social-poliXcal perspecXve: produced status and presXge
among the parXcipants; by giving away more goods than
another person, a chief could build his reputaXon and gain
new respect and posiXon in the community
•  Ritual perspecXve: reinforces who people are, builds their
sense of personhood, and ulXmately expresses the essence of
cultural groups
© Semiarto Aji Purwanto

What is a gi*?
•  Marcell Mauss, The Gi=: The Form and Reason for Exchange in
Archaic Socie:es 1924
•  “Why do humans feel obliged to reciprocate when they
receive a gi*?”
•  no gi* is truly free
•  gi*s creates a link between the people involved
•  entail the idenXty of the giver something powerful: hau
•  receiving the gi* always carries an obligaXon to reciprocate,
because the hau “wants” to return to its original owner,
though now it may be a?ached to another’s object.
•  Gi* economy
© Semiarto Aji Purwanto

Gi* vs capitalism
•  Marx and Mauss: capitalism was ruining the social world
because of commodiXes and the commodiXzaXon of socieXes
•  Marx: CommodiXes, from the Marxist viewpoint, were
produced for commerce rather than for the people who made
•  no amount of money or commodiXes bought in the
marketplace can ever really saXsfy the workers because the
one thing they cannot buy is the freedom of controlling their
own labor and lives
•  Gi* economies were seen as the opposite of the impersonal
commodity-producing capitalist system
© Semiarto Aji Purwanto

•  Gregory’s book Gi=s and Commodi:es (1982)

•  objects exist within social contexts of either commodity
exchange or gi* exchange
•  gi* exchange creates relaXonships between people with an
emphasis on the qualitaXve nature of the social relaXonship
•  In theory of commodity exchange, the social aspect is
minimized and impersonal: people try to maximize benefits
© Semiarto Aji Purwanto

Reciprocity and Gi*ing

•  Lesson taken from Mauss is that gi* exchange is about social
relaXons, not just about the gi*s themselves
•  Sahlins: three types of reciprocity
–  generalized,
–  balanced, and
–  NegaXve reciprocity.
•  goods are socially (Sahlins) or morally (Mauss) posiXve, but in
capitalist socieXes commodiXes dehumanize people and
reduce all social relaXons to markets and money.
© Semiarto Aji Purwanto

AccumulaXng Value in the Gi*

•  why things are valued, and how objects acquire or lose value?
•  A. Appadurai, The Social Life of Things 1986
•  value of objects emerges not from the producXon process but from
the desires an object inspires …
•  … determined by what a person is willing to sacrifice in an effort to
obtain it, that is, value is in the eye of the would-be beholder.
•  objects in fact have their own social life
•  the possibility that all objects can be a “commodity” or a “gi*”
because values change within different contexts à history
•  objects do not have one clear value, but rather values can change
as objects move across a social landscape, something he calls
regimes of value that played in the tournaments of value
© Semiarto Aji Purwanto

Beyond Value
•  Gregory’s gi*/commodity disXncXon and Appadurai’s life history of
objects approach are two of the major direcXons taken by more
recent interpretaXons of the economic circulaXon of goods:
•  private property: a single individual holds all rights to an object à
simply never exist in reality
•  Godelier countered that some things cannot be given away or
exchanged à inalienability of many forms of property
•  ownership is inalienable; the others merely enjoy rights of
possession and use, which are alienable and temporary and are
transferred with the object
•  objects may move from one person to another, but they conXnue
to be owned by the first person
© Semiarto Aji Purwanto

Mutual RecogniXon and the Gi*

•  Seeing value as an acXve component of the gi* draws a?enXon
again to the nature of the social relaXons between giver and
•  Hegel (2003) and Derrida (1997) have expounded ideas of mutual
recogni:on as a fundamental facet of social life à individuals must
recognize and be recognized by other individuals.
•  Gi*s, in this sense, create individuality.
•  Gi* exchanges carry unusual emoXonal weight
–  According to Robbins, relaXves from afar come to a funeral and buy the
anger that nearby relaXves feel for the negligence that led to the death.
–  family members of a bride must have their anger at losing their daughter
“bought” through gi*s given by the husband’s family, the price of
purchase determined by how angry the parents of the bride feel.