Unlike many theorists who discuss the gift, Jacques Godbout (The World of the Gift, 193) does not believe that is should “drown” everything, especially markets: “That would not only be impossible but also very harmful, for a great society (statistically speaking) needs the state and market apparatus. The system of the gift, if it were to replace them, would give rise to instances of personal domination that would be particularly grace, the perverse effects of a populism with which are are all familiar. A large society, by definition, inevitably implies a great number of bonds between strangers and partners known to one another. The state and the market are the proper systems for dealing with this kind of relationship, so that objects and services may circulate between strangers.” (For a chilling account of an effort to drown a modernizing nation in a system of reciprocity, see Jeffrey Brooks’s Thank You, Comrade Stalin!: Soviet Public Culture from Revolution to Cold War).
Godbout adds (208): “The market enables us to pursue exchange under conditions where the gift is neither possible nor desirably, and where the alternative is violence or the complete absence of a relationship.”
posted by Peter J. Leithart on Saturday, June 30, 2012 at 5:03 pm
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