Reproduced from: http://gift-economy.com/homo-donans/
Homo Donans, Part Six: Transpositions
Weighing the scales
In 1974-76 I spent some time in my hometown Corpus Christi, Texas, with my children. There I had some free time, which I used for working on the ideas that I eventually published in 1980 and 1981. I have included those essays as the final chapters of this book. Here I am adding two short pieces I wrote at that time on equivalence and on weighing and scales. They also contain many comments, which I made over the years, as I never gave up thinking about these issues. In fact the scales are very similar to the equation of value.
When the word is seen as the equivalent of the (general) equivalent, that is, of the exemplar, its common quality with the exemplar is mainly relational. It has the capacity to stand in the same position as the exemplar, with the same or similar effects regarding the things that are relative to it. Although in the beginning of concept development it may appear to children that things are the same because they have the same name, later they see that things have the same name because they are the same. In Vigotsky’s surname complex, the relation between one and many is like that of a parent to children and therefore not reciprocal (the children are not parents of the parents or parents of one another). On the other hand, in the fully developed concept, the word occupies the equivalent position and substitutes for things as having a relation of equality (or at least similarity)1 with each other, and this relation is reciprocal (this having been achieved by turning the equation around).
In fact, it is a characteristic of equality that, as a relation, it can be equal to any other relation of equality. The equality that is established between equal relations is equal to them. Since the things that are related to a word have equal relations between them, each of these relations can be seen as equal to the relation the word has with them. It is the equivalent of the equivalent (of the exemplar) and that relation is equal to all the other relations of equality involved. This cluster of equal relations forms a sort of hologram.
Moreover, every instance of a given word as a combination of phonemes is in a relation of equality with every other instance of that same word, to the point that they are taken as “the same thing.” Since the relations of equality of items gathered together in a concept are equal to each other, they institute a new series of equal items on another level. The items on this level being equal, we can say that the relation is equal to the items that form it, so that the relation can be seen as adding an item to the series of which it is formed. In fact, sets of equal relations could be identified, which run all the way from the equivalence of physically similar objects to the equivalence of the equal relations to each other, with this as equal to the other relations, forming a new item to add to the set. Every time a new relation of equivalence is formed in some way, it adds a new item, which can itself be equated to all the others. Though different with regard to their content – for example, the first group would be made up of physical objects, the next of relations, and the next of relations of relations – each item or series would be equal to the others. This repetition of structure creates a kind of self similarity or mirroring. In fact, only in one or two phases do physically similar objects appear, but their relations are repeated many times, as happens in facing mirrors. (There is also the possibility of seeing the equation itself as exemplar and exemplar of exemplars, see below). Interestingly, the proliferation of reflections of equal relations also seems to be materialized in such social instruments as scales and coins.
On my way back to Italy from the United States in 1975, I stopped over in Washington and went to the Smithsonian Museum. At the gift shop there I bought a reproduction of a little weight for measuring gold from the Gold Coast, Ashanti area of Africa. Looking at it carefully I was amazed to find that it it expressed a number of the ideas I had been thinking about. I wrote a short piece about it, which I have continued to think about and elaborate on until now.
The Peacock Weight
This is a little weight for measuring gold (dust). It is a bird – a peacock it said on the box – that is mirroring itself in its tail, so it is self-reflecting in something that is part of itself, its tail. We can surmise that, as a weight, it was to be put on a scale. A scale can be thought of as a material equation, with its two plates that must balance. The equation between the bird’s head and its reflected image in its tail would repeat the equation between the gold on the one side of the scale and the bird on the other. The bird reflecting itself in its tail (head = tail) is not only the equivalent of the gold, but the equivalent of the equation of the scale. The gold as general equivalent is the standard of the value of commodities and thus occupies the side of the equation with regard to them which the bird’s head occupies with regard to its tail and which the bird as a weight occupies with regard to the gold. There is also an equation between any particular value, which is to enter into an equation of exchange, and the gold, as well as an equation between any particular instance of gold in the right quantity and the bird. The equivalence of gold with other instances of itself (along with its aesthetic qualities) can be seen in the self reflection of the bird and in the fact that it is a peacock, a beautiful and vain, self-reflecting bird. This self reflection in the tail also accords well with the Marxian analysis of commodities in which gold as money has the same substance of value that commodities have, which goes to show perhaps that the artisan who made this figurine understood some of the same things about money that Marx did. The peacock reflecting itself in its tail can be seen as an image of gold as having the same substance of value as commodities.
Looking at the bird on the scales as a precursor of coins, we can see how the coin really took the place of the equation of the scales. The equation between the bird and the gold is compressed and turned inside out in the coin as it is related to other coins. It is one and they are many, yet they are all “made of” the same thing. That is, they are all the ‘general equivalent’. On the one side of a coin you usually have a head and on the other some figure, sometimes a winged figure. In English you even call the two sides of the coin ‘heads’ and ‘tails’. On the one side of the coin you have the ‘head’, which is not looking at the ‘tail’ and on the other side the ‘tail’, which is not reflecting the ‘head’. The element of self-reflection is lost or hidden because the scale is turned inside out: its self-reflection is turned outwards. The ‘heads’ side is one of many ‘heads’ sides of coins of that denomination, and looks like them, and the same for the tails side. Together they are many aspects of the ‘one’, which is money.2 We could look at this little figurine as an explanation, a material discourse on coins. The peacock is like a little phoenix that rises out of its ashes in the coin to tell us what coins are.3
Coins exist in series, each equal to the others of the same denomination. The self-reflection of the bird now takes place between the coins, in their equivalence with each other within the series. Each coin is identical to the others of the same denomination and has the same social function in that it will buy the same quantity of value. It can be substituted in the exchange of private property, for any object containing a given quantity of value (socially necessary labor time in Marx’s terms). As gold or other money material, the coin is the general equivalent of all other commodities. Both the gold and the commodities contain value and this is why the former reflects the latter in the exchange. As a coin of a particular denomination, gold is exchangeable for or substitutable for members of a class of commodities which is the class having that given quantity of value. We can say ‘substitutable for’ if we remember that exchange is a double substitution, and look at it one sidedly, from the point of view of one of the exchangers – that is substitution is only half of the act of exchange.
The coin is general for several reasons 1. the exchange of private property is an important human social practice, which becomes generalized and needs to be mediated generally, for many different individuals, with regard to many different things 2. different classes of commodities exist depending on the quantity of value they contain. 3, Different instances of coins of the same denomination exist. 4. The same coin can be used again and again. 5. There are other denominations of coins, themselves existing in series with regard to which any one series of coins (and thus any instance of a coin ) is distinguished from the others by opposition.
We may imagine that the peacock was one of a number of larger and smaller birds for weighing different amounts of gold (which would correspond later to larger and smaller coins) In other words, it was probably also distinguished by opposition from other similar weights, which were put on the scale together in order to weigh different amounts of gold. However, this can be seen as a development of the equation of the one bird to itself, to the scale, and to the gold, which was potentially related to goods or services for which it could be repeatedly exchanged.(The same situation exists for gold and for coins in that both are combinable to make sums which express different amounts of value.) Each aggregate responds to the necessities of the moment that is, it is particular, while a given weight or one denomination of coins, is constant and general, the situation from which one begins.
Now we can apply this to language. Money has characteristics of the word because of the contradictory, anti-social, social practice of the exchange of private property, which it serves to mediate. It takes the place of many kinds of things and expresses their value as qualitatively the same (not-gifts) and only quantitatively different, just as gold itself is qualitatively the same and quantitatively different. (Quantity is after all only one kind of quality among all the others.) Language on the other hand, is both qualitatively the same (as vocal language) and qualitatively different as different phonemic and phonetic combinations.
The identity of a word with itself in one instance of that word would not be evident if there were not already a social practice in which that word was used. That is, unless other instances of the same word existed for others already, and in fact, a word must be learned from others who are using it. In much the same way, the peacock would not be a weight for gold in any particular instance unless the practice of weighing gold (with all that this implies) already existed. That is, unless other weights already existed for other things generally and unless it were possible to use this bird again and again to weigh various particular instances of gold having that quantity. There would be no need for the bird to reflect itself, thus becoming the equation of the equation of the equation, in which it also participates as an equivalent, unless there were a social reason for it to do so, a social use or need for it. This is a need coming from the market.
Early words like ‘Mama’ and ‘Papa’, which are made of repeated phonemes demonstrate self-identity phonetically.4 Like coins words are self-identical but also exist in relation to other instances of themselves. They are like the peacock in that in any particular equation with something for which they stand, they are self identical, and imply an equation with other instances of themselves (if you remember a word, you have found a present word equivalent to past – or future – instances of it, even if you don’t consciously perform the remembering) The self-identity and other-identity of words reflects the equation between the word and the non verbal item, which involves, like gold and commodities, the equation of a member of a class as an exemplar of the class, and the other members of that class.
According to Marx, gold is a member of the class of things that have value because they are produced by abstract labor, and as gold (money) substitutes for them, it measures and expresses them as values. It is a member of that class, which has been excluded from that class by virtue of this particular social use, which it undergoes. He says that a polarity is set up between gold and other commodities like that between the Pope and Catholics.(1962:41) A case can be made that the same polarity exists between any object (or mental image of an object) as an exemplar of a class, and the other members of a class, which are equal to each other and thus are eventually also reciprocally substitutable, at least in regard to those qualities by which they are equal, and substitutable by the exemplar.
Gold used as money is different from the words of language because it is a ‘word’, which contains the quantitative langue within it. Words proper are (among other things) related (Saussure 1931) 1) to the things (cultural items) for which they stand, 2) to other instances of the same word, 3) to other words by opposition. What the word (taken by itself) does is to take the place of the exemplar with regard to the other members of the class, instituting the polarity between itself and these members, and making the exemplar unnecessary. When one doesn’t know what a word means, an example, or a mental image, is useful. This is because there is another practice to which both things and the words that stand for them are relevant. That is, communication, the formation of similar social subjects with regard to abstract, but nevertheless common social property.
In any use of the word (name) with regard to something, which is a use of it alone (decontextualized like the scale, assessing something in terms of a standard) – not in a combination of words – its self identity is much like that of the peacock and has a similar function. This depends also on the fact of the existence of other instances of the same word in which it is reflected. The self reflection of the word is actually reflection among people. That is like coins, the word exists for others (and other words exist for others) and therefore for the individual. As with coins, not only the words but the classes of things they represent are important to others, as elements, foci, of social practice, and therefore they are important to each of us as someone who is always becoming socialized.
The word taken by itself is the substitute for the exemplar of the class, having taken over the polarity of general equivalent with regard to the other members of that class.5 This polarity is set up between the word and the members of that class, and both the word and other instances of itself, and any member of that class and other instances of itself have a relation of identity or similarity).6
Vygotsky says that the word is a guide to the formation of concepts, being already used by children in communication before they develop conceptual polarization. This idea implies that the concept already exists socially since there are many classes of things that are similar to each other and have been recognized as such by others because of their relevance to the practice of many people. Words institute a polarity with and among the members of a category so as to transmit, facilitate and make possible the complication and growth of human practice. According to Vigotsky’s experiments, children do not understand abstract equality but other kinds of relations: family relations or chain relations between the things for which words stand (though it seems they always recognize the importance of some kind of equivalence or similarity). Vygotsky found that the simplification of the understanding of the concept according to a consistent exemplar and common quality or group of qualities is a comparatively late achievement. Its development is very similar to Marx’s description of the development of money as the general equivalent. One can perhaps be used to fill in the other.7
Even at an early stage children learn that similarity is relevant to communication, that is, to their relations with others. (This similarity regards similarity between verbal objects, which they themselves can make, similarity between their verbal objects and those others make, as well as similarity between the verbal objects others make at other times). At the same time they seem to recognize the relevance of the similarity among things with regard to language though from the beginning they form ‘complexes’ of things according to different similarities of these things to each other, rather than according to constant common qualities.
Beginning with the recognition of the social importance of similarity, which is stimulated by language, and continuing with the construction of the linguistically producing subject as similar to others, an abstract relation of similarity is set up among the things to which a word applies. The child knows that they are equivalent but s/he doesn’t know why. This may be seen as an abstract nominalistic relation, which the child later fills in by virtue of h/er experience and socially determined practice regarding things. S/he thinks that things are equal because they have the same name. In a wide sense s/he is right because the name serves to mediate the transmission of social programs of behavior regarding a kind of thing and this helps to maintain the fact of their similarity to each other at a certain level of relevance to humans.8 Later s/he learns things have the same name because they are similar and s/he can abstract their common qualities.
If the similarity of things to each other is not generally relevant, no individual word exists for them in the lexicon (excluding things which have been relevant in the past, so that the existence of a word in their regard is a sort of carry-over) and they are not seen at that level as a class. However, for a particular purpose, any kind of thing can be seen as a member of a class, by relating it to a sentence or phrase. For example the class of all horses standing in streams is referred to by a phrase in English but by a word in some Amerindian language (Schaff 1964). The class of all short and thick objects is one of Vigotsky’s experimental classes. His experiment is in fact based on relating to words a group of things, which in Russian would normally have been related to phrases.
Communicative relations among persons, socially determined behavior with regard to things, their production, transmission and use, all aid language in the formation of speaking social subjects. All of this indicates a direction, which might be taken in considering language as a device for its own acquisition.
Perspective and the ego (1 and I)
Language itself has a great deal of power as a model; it is informed by and provides patterns of interpersonal behavior, which are transposed from and can be shifted to different levels. If we restore the dimension of gift giving to the idea of communication, we can see that a culturally determined legacy of material and linguistic gifts, gives us both the ‘forms’ and the ‘contents’ we use to construct ourselves as human. That is, the giving-and-receiving that takes place in material nurturing is transferred to the giving-and-receiving of verbal gifts. This interaction and change of planes, is repeated not only in syntax, but also in nonverbal signs and symbolic material gift giving of all kinds.
Thus we would like to suggest that gift giving at the level of syntax and words, in alignment with material gift giving, teach them-selves to the child who is learning about material giving-and-receiving at the same time. Later, as s/he matures, the alignment of the definition and naming with their derivative, the alienating anti-gift mechanism of exchange, brings the individual into the exchange paradigm as a market actor, ‘economic man’, in a context, which discredits gift giving and validates patriarchal values.
Scales and other measuring devices, including coins, employ and embody aspects of the concept-forming process: comparing relative items to equivalents, members of a category, for example the category of ‘things having weight’, to exemplars, for example standardized pieces of iron. The scale is not only a material equation and an embodiment of part of the process, it is also used as the exemplar for that kind of process. Moreover, the weigher is h/erself represented in the scale, in the symmetry of h/er two hands and two eyes, which deliberate in the weighing of two items or two points of view. S/he h/erself functions also as the exemplar and the standard of the mechanism as well as the standard of the standard, the one who decides whether the scale is in balance.
The peacock is like the weigher in that it introduces the element of self-reflection and thus provides a sort of missing link between evaluating and money, weighing and scales. It is appropriate also because it is used for evaluating gold, which is the general equivalent. Therefore at least momentarily it is the standard of the standard and thus also corresponds with the weigher, bringing forward the aspect of h/er self-referentiality.
The relation between the head and the tail feathers of the peacock, as well as between the beak and the eyes of the tail, is similar to the one-to-many relation between gold and commodities. The peacock weight stands on one side of the scale, gold on the other. The self reflecting peacock is an image of the self reflecting (masculated) ‘one’ ego required and promoted by exchange and thus probably also of the ego of the person who is doing the weighing. A sense of the self as unified in the midst of the variety of experience is probably a healthy self-construction. However, the ego orientation and emphasis on the general equivalent promoted by patriarchy and the market, lock us into continuing narcissistic self-evaluation. And as we said, the scale repeats the form of the equation between gold and commodities9 (and the form of the self reflecting peacock) once again confirming the importance of the moment of comparison of something with a standard, a particular relative item with a general equivalent.
The scale repeats the form of the equation itself but with an extra social ‘weight’ or emphasis given to the standard. Whether it is a lead weight or the peacock, it is the one standard opposed to the many items to be weighed. The curious aspect of the peacock weight on the scale is that what it is weighing, the gold, is also the standard and it is a much more general equivalent than the peacock (which is even only used to weigh gold dust and not other things). Moreover, although this tiny figurine is stylized, the fact that it is a peacock reminds us that a peacock’s head (with its balanced two eyes and beak) is the one as opposed to the many feathers with ‘eyes’. The peacock is both the standard of the standard because it is used for weighing gold, and the representation of the standard – one to many (head to tail) and the representation of the equation – reflection, which is the scale. As such it is also like the human weigher, with similar functions.
The ego and the psychology of property
The market ego-form is the self-interested ego – a giver-in-order-to-receive or a ‘deserving’ receiver who has previously given-to-receive. The self that cares for others is different from the ego that uses others as means or reflects itself in other egos or that gives to receive an equivalent (though they can co exist within the same person). The ‘exchange ego’ comes from practicing the logic of exchange, which involves definition, evaluation, categorization, the self that cares for others comes from the practice of gift logic and gift processes. There is also a self that cares for the ego needs of the other – usually the mother or the wife of a masculated male.
In language proper the subject of the sentence and the subject of the speaking (the subject of the enonce’ and of the enonciation (cfr Benveniste) are both givers. As we have been saying, the subject gives the predicate to the object, and the speaker gives the words, the sentence, the discourse, to the listener. On the other hand the definition, which follows the pattern of exchange does not have a subject that gives to an object, rather there is a mechanism of substitution and change of levels by which the speaker, the definer gives the ‘new’ word to the listener/learner. Descriptions using the copula are similarly lacking in a giving subject. It may be that the ungiving human subject of exchange takes up the pattern of sentences using the copula in which properties seem to be added to the subject by apposition and contiguity, justified by the definition of that word (carried out through substitution). So by saying “A cat is a 4 legged animal with a long tail etc.” and substituting ‘cat’ for ‘4 legged animal with a long tail etc.’ we create a pattern by which, when we say: “the cat is black, likes to play, a good hunter etc.” we are attributing or recognizing its ‘properties’ in analogy with the human being who on the market has taken the place of others (as h/is money has taken the place of others property) and those properties now belong to h/im. So the speaker can either be aligned with the pattern of the gift giving subject of the declarative sentence or with the property ‘owning’ subject of the descriptive sentence using the copula, or with the overtaking word, the definiendum in a definition.
Self-definitions such as “I am a man,” say that I have those properties. The peacock, like Descartes, says “I think (I reflect) therefore I have the property of being…and thinking (reflecting).” Such self-definition is assertion of the human being as owner, the gift-canceling exchange ego (and the assertion of this exchange ego as standard), “I am I.” So the peacock reflects not only the general equivalent and the scale but also this exchange ego structure and the form of the statement of identity or self-definition. These reflections of the peacock weight let us see that the form of the general equivalent, money, also contains the form of the statement of identity or self-definition. That is, the general equivalent is the form of the self-reflecting owning-and-exchanging ego!! It says ‘I am I’ serially in many different experiences in time. While gift subjectivities take the form of the declarative sentence. As general equivalent these egos do not recognize gift giving. They leave it aside as irrelevant to the concept and to the forming of concepts, that is, to thinking. Turned upon themselves, narcissistic like the peacock, they are not in a giving but in an equating relation and stance and need to be admired, and so given to, as the scale is given to, as the equation, the identity statement, the exchange economy. Gift giving is outside and unrecognized. It has no meta level mainly because meta levels are descriptive, made in the form of identity statements, and these have been understood in terms of self reflection.
Even when a person is indicating something in an ostensive definition for the benefit of the listener, the speaker may not be recognized as a giver. Rather there is a sense of the generality and acceptability of language so that the name seems to be already there. The speaker is not giving us that word, but just ‘passing it on’, which is a discounted interaction belonging to gift circulation. The lack of recognition of the gift character of speech and of language and our participation in the market (where we do not recognize the source of the products we buy), keep us from recognizing the speaker as giver. Rather than seeming to be what it is, a relation between persons, language seems to be a relation between things words and what they represent, and between words, what they represent and the brain (which remains a thing).
The market, using the patterns of the definition on the material plane, has emphasized the substitution aspects of language as if they were the givens (the gifts) and it has located them among the givens of nature, the data. These are givens, without a giver and without giving, so infused by paradox that we do not look beyond them. So, substitution, identity, equivalence, the common quality, which are elements of the process of abstraction just seem to be something we are equipped to recognize, part of our software. The ungiving ego, taken as exemplar, corresponds with these abstraction processes and constructions of identity and it is also taken as a given. It also corresponds with language seen from the meta level of grammar from which gift giving has been removed. All of these identity constructions seem clear and acceptable to us, while gift giving is opaque.
The self reflecting ego becomes the standard for selves. In masculation, the boy reflects the self-reflecting, owning ego of the father and himself self-reflects. He is in the category of those who are selected as superior, and recognizes himself as potentially ‘one’ of those ‘ones’. The boy, like the peacock has an identity – beyond the gift. This kind of ego is generalized to everyone by Western philosophy and psychology, but we are often exhorted to go beyond it to embrace the ‘other.” The attempt to impose ethics upon an unruly ego-oriented population would not be necessary, or at least would be very different if we were not creating the self reflecting, narcissistic owning ego in the image of money and the prototype of the concept, embedded in the context of exchange and the market.
The owner of property, like the exemplar in one of Vygotsky’s complexes functions as one with regard to many different kinds of things.10 Private property requires a different approach from other categories because it creates sets of items that are internally diverse and cannot be conceptualized in the same way as other sets. The set, ‘property of x’, is a many-to-one configuration like the ‘family name’ complex (and like the patriarchal family). The owner has the position of exemplar but the items are diverse and are all related to the ‘one’ in different ways. The main common quality of the properties is the quality of belonging to that owner but there is also a common mutually exclusive relation with all those whose property this is not, a relation similar to that among words in Saussure’s langue.11
As the owner not only of a variety of private property, but of money, the owner-exemplar becomes more abstract. Because money is the abstract and general exemplar of value, using it actually performs an abstraction. Money pulls its owner up to a more abstract level where s/he functions as the equivalent of the equivalent and the two processes, of owning and being the standard (and evaluator) are equated. Thus the one who has more is also evaluated as more and evaluates h/erself in that way. This instates another self-referential ego process, which makes the ego appear more important in view of the quantity of money and property it owns, and in comparison to others who have less or no money or property. Moreover property ‘gives to’ its owner selectively, in that it does not give to anyone else. The process of self reflection of the owning ego also informs the supposed ‘superiority’ of North over South as inhabited by people, corporations, countries and regions, which have more property and more money.
The peacock looks at himself reflected his beautiful tail, proud of his ‘properties’ (which female peacocks don’t have) and the ‘eyes’ of his properties ‘look back’ at him.12 He also looks beyond his tail to the other plate of the scale where the gold, the general equivalent is located and even beyond that to everything that is related to the general equivalent, to the world of commodities, to everything money can buy. Like the peacock evaluating the gold, the proprietor evaluates his/her money, and looks through it at the world as h/er potential property.13 Thus as an owning-and-exchange ego s/he sees the world as a very diverse set of items with h/erself as potential ‘complex’ exemplar, and occupying that position s/he is equivalent also of the money exemplar.
Having money places a person in a privileged category, (like having male genitals) but s/he has to step down from h/er abstraction to the ‘complex’ level and give up some of the money in order to actually obtain those possessions. That is, s/he functions on a less abstract level as the owner of a variety of concrete need satisfying things. While as a property owner s/he remains mutually exclusive with all other proprietors, as an owner of money, s/he independently possesses a common property with all proprietors of money and can be put in the same class with them, with further sorting depending upon quantity. The owners of money can look at the world as their potential property, not as belonging to others only. However they can only actually possess some of that property. Money is the general equivalent of everything on the market and a person who owns a lot of money can relate almost any kind of thing to h/erself as owner.
Our cultural heroes are now configured in the one-to-many pattern. They are sports heroes, movie and music stars with their fans, presidents and other political figures with their followings, CEO’s with the members of their companies, television anchor-persons with their viewers. Some of them ‘make’ a lot of money (receive a lot of free gifts of profit), so that they are exemplars and equivalents of the general equivalent in several different ways: as ‘stars’, as owners of money, and as owners of property. They thus achieve the ideal of masculation, the exemplar position, in a realm somewhere beyond gender as such. Entertainment idol Michael Jackson is a good example of this. His unisex image emphasizes the ‘beyond gender’ aspect of this exemplarity; he is certainly unique and one-to-many regarding his fans; he has made a very large amount of money, and has owned all kinds of property including immense luxury items. On the personal level pedophilia may also be seen as an attempt to impose a one to many relation sexually on children who are themselves just undergoing the process of masculation.
The (artificial) mandate of masculation, to become the exemplar, must be a daunting and difficult one to young children who are at the same time giving up the gift giving way of their mothers. Though society provides a number of paths to exemplarity for children to follow, they are not always accessible to the boys who need them the most. Exasperated young men may therefore act out the exemplar position negatively as has happened in the school shootings where teenage boys kill their classmates, presumably to show their superiority. In fact the ability to kill others with a (phallic) gun puts the killer in a ‘one’ position with regard to the many to whom, in an overwhelming apotheosis of hitting, he ‘gives death’.
Form and Matter
Weighing can be seen as a physical metaphor for equating; in the scale, the balanced plane expresses the common quality, which in that case is quantity.14 The scale then validates the form of the equation through repetition and representation. Each equation is equal to the others though quantitatively different. That is, balance is the representation15 of the fact that in the selection process, the common quality has been found and quantification has also been applied to it. A specific weight is one common quantity of a common quality.
The scale requires an onlooker, an evaluator or recognizer of the balance and the mechanism, a weigher. Since we can actually sense a similarity of weights in our two hands, and must maintain our bodies in equilibrium, scales seem to be clearly derived from the human body. In fact they are a sort of externalization or representation of our kinetic sense of our selves. Thus the evaluator or weigher is a look-alike of the scale itself with her spine as the fulcrum. A qualitative equation is set up between the weigher and the scale. As an evaluator, the weigher is also similar to the standard and there is thus still another equation like that between money and its owner, making h/er the standard of the standard. Moreover the fulcrum of the scale is analogous to a person’s internal center and to decision making on one side or another of an issue. In this the fulcrum is also similar to the standard or to a number on the standard as the point from which to evaluate more and less. The weigher is more active than the scale, as s/he is actually placing things on the plates, and satisfying a need to know how much they weigh (a need largely coming from the exchange economy). The patriarchal father as owner, decision maker and exemplar of the human is then also analogous to the standard of weight, the fulcrum and the weigher, and he can be internalized as such. On the other hand, we can say that the scale itself, together with its process, is an exemplar a standard for other kinds of decision making according to a standard.
The standard is a sort of transfer of the fulcrum onto one side of the equation, the equivalent, which is divided quantitatively. Whatever is equal to it has the common quality and quantity, and is in balance with it, which proves it. The onlooker, the weigher has a backbone, a fulcrum, the baricenter of a mostly symmetrical body, from which the scale itself was derived, and s/he also decides.
Physical analogies must be ancient, re suggesting themselves to people again and again. However the scale is not only derived from physical body balance but feeds back as an image of the balancing body, receiving confirmation and confirming the viewer. It also feeds back by its similarity to the one-to-many selection process (with the possibility of making the many repeatedly equal to the one by adding to or subtracting from either side.)
With regard to the scale we can also look at the weigher as a ‘third person’, a tracker of the gifts of others. S/he can tell if the two plates have both received the same ‘gift’-quantity. As trackers of others’ gifts we weighers are all equal to each other, and have that common quality ourselves. That is, we have in common that we are gift trackers, and in common with the scale mechanism that we are evaluators like it and occupied with the common quality (weight), like it is.
In the market, the individual who is deciding what to buy weighs the present item physically, and weighs it against money and against other items. Other people in the market, those of the past as well as those who will buy and sell after the present transaction, the seller who will receive the money from the present seller, the buyer who will ‘make money ‘ by becoming a seller in turn next time, are weighers who also are influenced by and influence the present. Everyone estimates the transactions of everyone else, hoping to receive more for less. These human evaluators, taking themselves as standards (man is the measure of all things), track the exchanges, in order to derive benefit. Thus they confirm the standard character of money as the general equivalent and vice versa it confirms them as its equivalent weighers and deciders. They also confirm other standards of weights and measures, the processes of weighing, measuring and evaluating, and quantification itself, as the basis of a kind of knowledge that is quite different from qualitative knowledge based on gratitude and gift giving.
This exploration of the social meaning of the scale is only one example of how our thinking is influenced by the market. There are many variations, extensions and intensifications of these patterns. We are collectively caught in the moment of the concept forming or selection process in which something is compared to a standard to decide what category it is in. The market, where we buy and sell on a daily basis, creates a situation in which we make choices depending on the evaluation of goods in money. Like the money and like the standard of weight of the scales, we are, with our needs and desires, the ‘standards’ for our own choices after which we believe that it is the capacity for choice that is the most important aspect of our humanity and our ability to categorize that is the most important aspect of our minds.16
I believe that our being the standard distorts our perspective on categories, making the exemplar ‘transparent’ to us (because indeed, it is incarnated again in us). Categories seem to be ready-made of members by nature or by fiat, not constructed. We are so deeply immersed in the use of money as the exemplar that we don’t recognize it as such. We have arrogated its capacities to ourselves by making ourselves in its image17 and it therefore seems to be just a social tool for a necessary human process. In its character of standard of value, money seems to stand outside the category of commodities because, as Marx says, it has been “excluded” by the bipolarity between the one and the many. People use money as an instrument and seem to control it. In the kind of judgment that is the sorting of value (exchange value) money seems to be just something in our universe that has that function. It seems to have no connection with commodities except that we use it that way. Moreover since in this incarnated concept process, we are actually using the exemplar to buy members of sets according to the quantity of their common quality of exchange value, we do not recognize it as an exemplar nor do we recognize the sets as having an exemplar. They are seen as types, or are identified (like humans) according to a list of their ‘properties’. We also don’t recognize our own agency in this process or our own self-constructed exemplarity.
As regards language, we ignore the importance of the exemplar for categorization. In learning language everybody has had h/er own exemplars in the equivalent position as substituted by the word-gifts, which are the names of things of that kind. Usually whatever identification of an object or mental image a person uses to construct h/er one-to-many concepts, this exemplar becomes once more part of the group it came from, since the word functions as substitute exemplar. Thus the exemplar position seems unimportant for the construction of categories. This is an illusion, however. Even though we do not recognize its role in categorization, we have externalized the exemplar and incarnated it in economics, politics, religion every aspect of our culture. We have also inappropriately internalized it again in the construction of our property relations, our egos and in the agenda of the male gender. Striving to achieve it individually is our collective disease.
We are way out of balance in the direction of the scale and the standard. Evaluation is overemphasized, and we tend towards it instead of tending others. We weigh alternatives, becoming ourselves the ‘fulcrums’ of ‘scales’, considering the importance of one thing or another and calculating results and consequences. The ability to choose appears to be the central aspect of freedom, making us take the position of the judge, the fulcrum, the standard much of the time. Categorization, quantification and decision-making seem to be characteristics or even prerogatives of those humans who have achieved the exemplar position. Although women are excluded by their gender from the category of those who strive to be the exemplar, as owners of property and money they are admitted and can join the race to the top.
The emphasis on choice and the religious emphasis on ‘free will’ in the over developed countries makes our consumerism seem part of our ‘human nature’. We can choose to buy something that will put us in a superior category. At the same time advertising and propaganda companies are doing everything possible to weight the choices in their direction and, while it is becoming more and more difficult to choose to reject the system, more and more ‘choices’ among consumer products are being provided for those who have the money to pay for them. We are even made to believe that if we have the property of same kind of tennis shoes worn by an exemplar sports hero, we can be part of his category.
In the big picture, a social leverage point is created by scarcity. Taking the wealth away from the contexts in which most of the population lives, makes difficult the satisfaction of everyone’s own needs as well as the needs of others and makes people have to balance the one against the others. The consequences of not working for money only become dire when there is no other access to need-satisfying goods in the community or environment. The point at which one will give up h/er independence is lower and lower as wealth is drained from the economy and alternatives are reduced. The presence of children towards whom the other-orientation of workers is directed, weighs the balance in the direction of the capitalist. The workers’ gift giving orientation or responsibility (the needs of their families) is used against them, and they are forced into situations in which they have to calculate the importance of every need against every other, as expressed in marginal utility. This situation is viewed as natural and inevitable and is justified by those who judge ‘have-nots’ as inferior to ‘haves'(with all the phallic overtones these expressions imply).
Standards and definitions
Masculation makes the male the standard for humans, and a similar social choice makes lead the standard for weight (though there are less options to choose from for a standard of human genders than for a standard of weight). This identification of a social standard as such does not weigh anything materially, but it maintains the one-to-many polarity and thus the scale itself, which needs a constant articulated standard of evaluation. That is, it satisfies a social need for the evaluative quantification of products coming from the exchange of private property as well as from other social processes – such as measuring in cooking, construction, medicine, etc. – all of which can be done outside of the issue of private property, focusing on particular needs arising from human collaborative situations. The ‘weight’ of being a standard is a special quality like value – like a twist in the quality of value, a kind of permanent emphasis. That emphasis comes from the fact that as a social general equivalent, it is not just self identical but derives its main identity from its relation to the many others.
The determination of weight18 according to the standard is like the definition and naming. It is our process of responding to the need to know what is it? regarding a quantity of this qualitative dimension. In the definition, the definiens and the definiendum must be considered equal to each other, so that one can take the place of the other for further communication. In the scale, the items on the two plates must be equal as to weight so that the plates will balance. The vestige of substitution remains in the fact that the thing being weighed and the standard can be substituted for each other on one or the other plate of the scales without changing the balance. The scales also reflect or foreshadow the equation of value, where money is substituted for (takes the place of) the commodity in exchange, thus showing that they have the same common quality and quantity of exchange value. The level balance of the scale, permitting reciprocal substitutability is analogous to the common quality of nonverbal gifts also permitting reciprocal substitutability, and in turn substituted by the definiens and by the definiendum in the definition. In the equation of value the substitutability and the actual substitution of money for the commodity expresses the same quantity of the quality, which is value in exchange.19 Quantification satisfies the need to know ‘what is it?’ in terms of counting by representing amounts in an ordered series of numbers.
Needs to know coming from the market are satisfied regarding weight by using the mechanism of scales and standard weights.20 Other needs for quantification have brought various other kinds of measurements and standards. The satisfaction of these needs is one specialized aspect of what we call ‘knowing’ and it can be considered a particular kind of gift coming from quantitative definition and measurement even if the practices which made the measurement necessary were/are often exploitative and based on exchange.
The need for quantification, especially, arises from exchange, which itself comes in part from lack of trust and the attitude of the stranger (Godbout 1992). As shown in widespread ancient traditions of hospitality towards strangers, gift giving creates community, but where no community is expected or desired, exchange prevails. Vice versa exchange produces a distancing of those who might otherwise be in a gift giving community. (To its credit on the other hand, trade sometimes establishes ‘balanced’ relations beyond those of force, plunder and war).21
The kind of knowledge brought about through quantification and exchange is different from the qualitative knowledge brought about through gift giving, communication and language and even perception itself. Quantitative knowledge is not knowledge for which we are grateful to the source, because the source appears to be just the scale, the standard or the calculation, which actually don’t give a gift. They only ‘correspond to reality’ and the weigher – who may be ourselves – is just performing a mechanical process (in a kind of anticipation of the operator of technology). Thus they fit with the owning-and-exchange ego and the denial of the gift in Patriarchal Capitalism. The calculation of that material emphasis which is quantity is emphasized much more than the immense variety of human needs and the activities that satisfy them.
The relation of one plate to the other of the scale might look like a gift transaction, because just by being put there the lead seems to ‘give’ a specific quantity to the thing weighed, attributing to it an intrinsic quality: weight, and a quantity of that quality for us.22 In fact the weigher is just using the equation of the scale to discover what is already there, a certain amount of weight. S/he is in the tracker role discerning who got what gifts rather than in the role of direct giver or receiver. The balance of the scale attributes a quantity, which is already there.23
The scales combine the definition with the concept formation process where an exemplar is chosen and other items are compared to it. The quality weight is singled out, abstracted from other qualities and then a material, lead, is assigned or identified as the exemplar and standard for that quality. This measurement is a process of attribution and discovery. Similarly men are the standard and exemplar for the human but men also have the aspect of ‘counter’ as the ‘one who counts’, with the double entendre of ‘counting’, which puts counters in a privileged category. Counters are able to register and describe in numbers the kind of phatic material communication that is quantity.24
The coin has as many self-similar relations as the peacock weight. Exchange itself is embodied in the two-sided coin in opposition to the gift. The gift/not-gift binary relation and the binary relation mine/not-mine are echoed in the heads/tails relation as the coin passes from hand to hand. The coin, like the whole peacock-scale and-gold, used for knowledge of quantity of exchange value, is in binary opposition to the gift. The equality among coins is balanced by the binary either/or character of the two sides of every individual coin. The equality between the coin and the commodity is dependant also upon the equality between one coin and the many others of that denomination, as well as upon the existence in the culture of many other coins of other denominations and of the whole area of exchange in binary opposition to gift giving.25
Tracking and counting money
We are in thrall to the objects, which we have used in the construction of our subjectivity and sociality and which have thus become the incarnations of those parts of ourselves, which they have helped to form. Coins r us, and so r scales, mirrors, even the houses where we do our gift giving and where we change levels from more public to more private when we go upstairs. Then we say ‘God the artisan’ makes all these artifacts that influence us.
The bi-polarity of the coin embodies the identity that excludes gift giving – which is already always potentially the other pole TO the bipolarity itself. There are many bi-polarities. The one and the many are represented in the coin, the family and public sphere, the individual and the group, the king and the state. All of these and others, like the general and the army, the CEO and the corporation, are bipolar representations of patriarchy, modeled on the concept form and its function in masculation. Mutually exclusive bi-polar property: either mine or yours, excludes a previous gift property and identity: ours. Outside the bipolar area of either/or, gift giving still exists.
Fortunately, there is also a linguistically constructed gift identity of the psychological subject. Although what we say may be based on ego-oriented exchange, lies, and attempts at domination, the internal functioning of language is based on satisfying the other’s communicative need. In this light our subjectivity always derives from our agency as givers/speakers, and our ability to receive/understand because words as verbal gifts and syntax as giving among words satisfy communicative needs at a basic level and thus produce a basic human gift giving subjectivity that remains in spite of later distortions. In fact the owning-and-exchanger ego is constructed both on the basis of and in contrast to its own basic gift giving subjectivity.
At another level, communication can be used for negative purposes, which the subject then incorporates as part of h/erself. We can satisfy others’ needs in order to dominate them thus becoming dominators as givers of commands, manipulators, underminers or destroyers of others. We do this by giving to them linguistically, and our subjectivity develops along those lines, perhaps in concert with the corporeal transposed ‘gift’ of hitting. However, we would not understand each other at all if the words and sentences we use did not satisfy general communicative needs of the community and specific communicative needs of the individuals in question. If we command someone “Kiss my foot,” those words have to satisfy the communicative needs regarding those gifts, services and parts of the world, that are kissing and my foot, even if the reason we are satisfying those needs is that we want to dominate and humiliate the listener. S/he will understand because h/er communicative needs are satisfied, even if she does not obey.
Those who are doing life-enhancing gift giving in their daily lives align their practical activity with this positive basic linguistic subjectivity, thus creating a more life-enhancing gift-directed self at many levels, than those who are self reflecting, exchanging, and dominating both linguistically and materially. Because females are expected to be mothers, they are not put in a non-mothering (masculated) category from the beginning as are males. They can therefore do gift giving without losing ‘face’, aligning their practical and their linguistic subjectivities. These are factors based on language and on social roles and practice, not on biology, and they can be used to account for differences in male and female subjectivities, public and private roles, market and domestic spheres in Patriarchal Capitalism.
Tracking the gifts of others, as we saw above when talking about syntax, and ‘who gives what to whom’ is a third process or role, which is neither gift giving nor exchange but regards them both. That is, the ability to track gifts and services could be said to extend not only to our view of the world around us and to words, but we can also turn it towards the contradictory gift process that is exchange. The question ‘who gave what to whom?’ can be transformed into ‘who gave how much and in return for what?’ This question interests all the market actors, as they will all be buying and selling the same or related things on the basis of the prices others are paying for them in other exchanges.
When someone buys from someone else in order to sell (“M-C-M” that is, money-commodity-money instead of “C-M-C” that is, commodity-money-commodity) there is another for whom that transaction is important, the future buyer, and in any case the money of the present buyer is the result of a previous sale. Thus those not engaged in present transactions nevertheless have a role regarding them, which is pertinent to their own involvement in similar transactions at other times. In the market everyone is in this position regarding everyone else. The use of money as the common standard of price allows the tracking of transactions to be done in the same way by all. Just as the use of words and syntax help us construct a common reality, and track gifts the same way, the use of money helps us track exchanges and construct the common reality of the market.
Money is the standard of value and evaluator and is thus in a position which is similar to the human evaluator. There is also a similarity between the function of the weigher with regard to the scale and the standard of weight, and the function of a judge, the two sides of the argument and the body of the law. In other words, with regard to a present transaction of selling/buying, other buyers and sellers, like the weigher and the judge are all ‘trackers’ or observers in a third position. However the standard itself is also an (incarnated or transposed) ‘tracker’, a sort of common ‘third’ even when it is part of the transaction like money is, or like the lead weight on the scale.
The use of the standard for evaluation involves the substitution of the role of the third, the observer, for the role of giver and/or receiver. That is really exchange! In barter each estimates the value of the other’s product with regard to her own, and what the other might want. Exchange for money takes the place of gift giving but also of barter. That is, it takes the place of the ad hoc agreement (commonality) between two, to give in order to receive.
Masculation also uses the tracker role to displace the model of the giver and receiver. That is, both mother and father as observers are in agreement that the boy has received the ‘gift’ of the penis and therefore also the verbal substitute gift of the gender term, which puts him in the category ‘male’.26 From the beginning his identity is influenced by this issue of who has received what, and he in turn can become an evaluator, and as an adult, an authority. Value becomes a property of the privileged category, and the members of that category are also privileged categorizers who can dominate other categories and categorizations.
Thus another aspect of the distinction between exchange and gift giving is that evaluation itself takes the place of gift giving when one requires an equal return ‘gift’ in a do ut des fashion. When the interaction becomes ego oriented instead of other oriented it requires the quantitative evaluation of the goods and vice versa. Exchange is a change of roles, giving precedence to the evaluator over the giver. Because of masculation the stance of the evaluator coincides with membership in the category that has been evaluated as superior (the male, who has received ‘more’). The members of that category are also involved in a struggle to become the exemplar, as part of their gender role, and they therefore track and evaluate properties which belong to the exemplar and each other, believing that having more of these will masculate them again.
The peacock looking at its tail on the one side of the scales, and the gold in relation to commodities on the other side are in a relation of specularity not only with themselves, each other and commodities but with the person who is weighing them as an evaluator. When that person is a male there is a continuity of standards: the person who is weighing the items, the male standard with respect to women and other men, the gold with respect to commodities, and the head of the peacock with respect to its tail, admiring and admired by the feather eyes. However even when a woman is the weigher, she is practicing the role of evaluator (using the standard mechanism and the common standard). The aspect of masculation is made invisible since women can do evaluation as well as men. The scale is also an externalized mechanism of naming and categorization (which are so important in masculation). Its very external status puts it beyond gender, making it appear neuter and neutral while at the same time, it surreptitiously broadcasts the importance of masculation as quantitative (and thus not primarily gift giving) evaluation according to a standard. Thus women can weigh as well as men even if they are not themselves the ‘standard categorizers’. Similarly they can use money without being self similar with it, and they can count even if, in another sense, they don’t count.27
In exchange, the ‘I ‘ as third, observer-standard-evaluator takes over from the gift giving ‘I’, as self-interest takes over from other interest. The ego is made the privileged receiver, and one attempts to identify gifts and direct more of them towards oneself. In this situation, the market in which the person participates seems to be the giver so s/he bonds with the market, giving value to it in a new gift ‘circle’ only with h/erself. H/er ego interest is in competition with others’ ego interest. The observer position in the market promotes not only knowledge but envy of what others have, and rage at not ‘having’ enough. What observers ‘give’ is an evaluation (by giving the concrete token of that evaluation, money a piece of the exemplar). Evaluation is substituted for gift giving and the evaluator for the giver. Thus homo donans degenerates into homo sapiens–economicus. The ego that is constructed in this fashion serves the market as a motivated actor, always ready to expand and get more so as to count more, to evaluate h/erself and be evaluated as better than other competitors and finally to achieve the position of the exemplar.
The self-interested ‘observer’ role really functions only in relative abundance because those who are living in poverty often are forced to revert to a ‘female’ gift position, in which their effort is all for others’, their families’, survival. Taking up macho attitudes at home sometimes restores to the men the masculated identity that is structurally taken away by their poverty.
The construction of masculation continues to exist and is re proposed again and again, alongside the clear proof that it is false and unnecessary. The more this proof dawns in consciousness the more the mandates of masculation are transposed into collective arenas and /or imposed by the use of force. The accumulation of wealth and power in the countries of the North provides a collective ‘superior’ masculated identity while femizing and impoverishing the countries of the South.28
This is happening at the same time that participation in the market has legitimated not-giving also for women so that men and women are becoming more ‘equal’ according to the male not-giving standard. Thus in the North everyone, male or female, rich or poor, can ‘enjoy’ a masculated position as part of the ‘superior’ category. Meanwhile those in the South have to defend their individual masculine superiority against the Nothern collective male and our US president (the ‘top’ male of the ‘top’ country) has to be the individual exemplar of masculated masculinity. Bush’s preemptive and punitive aggression can be seen as a sort of replay of Clinton’s sexual adventures, but on a collective level.
Perhaps unable to assert his one-to-manyness sexually, Bush is doing it through collective military aggression (that development of hitting which takes the place of gift giving for boy children). Terrorism is the assertion through armed aggression of the individuals’ masculated exemplarity in competition with the collective ‘exemplar’ country or group. Bush’s military aggression is a way of asserting his individual masculated exemplarity by imposing the collective force of his country’s masculated institutions on individual terrorists, and along with them, their countries, their regions, and the entire collective context from which they come. Add to this the logic of exchange, reprisal and escalation, and we realize how the wars in which the devastating world is presently engaged are the expression of the psychological and economic underpinnings of Patriarchal Capitalism. If we do not understand what we are doing we cannot stop doing it. The analysis of the exchange economy and masculation, and the alternative proposal of the gift economy and its unmasculated values are of utmost importance in this time of crisis.
Coins R US
The coin reduces the three dimensional scale to two dimensions. On one side is the seer, on the other side is the seen, the government building, or the ones who see the seer. The head of state has emitted (given) these coins, yet seen in profile on the coin, he is neither giving nor receiving, just observing, evaluating – and evaluated, valued by those who give him power, who themselves are represented by a god or mythical figure, now a public building (a construction of reality).29 A person uses a coin by permission of the ruler or the state. S/he is one of the many who are observing the leader, giving power and oneness to him. He is even more observed than he is observer. He lets himself be seen. Either the head or the tail; but this binary choice doesn’t really matter, both are part of the coin. Like gold and commodities, both have ‘economic’ value. Gift giving is elsewhere.
One is the other side of many. I as one am also one among many. There is a unity of the many self-interested points of view, internally to each one person, in h/er ‘will’ which upholds h/er continued practice of exchanging, and owning, not giving. That unity or even identity is expressed in the one face upon the coins of one denomination. The other side of coins has a much greater variety of images, images of the many. The primary collective choice is between exchange and gift giving, and between exchanging and not exchanging, between using the coin and not using it. Using the coin we are in the ego oriented rather than the other oriented frame of reference. Other oriented charity with money is common of course but once the money is received as a gift, it will be used again for exchange.
The unity of ego oriented exchange points of view is the guiding principle of homo sapiens-economicus. There is also a unity of other oriented points of view, though the logic of other-orientation makes most of their objects different from each other. That unity precedes the ego-oriented unity. In exchange we let the self-reflecting ego (and self reflecting ruler) be the standard, as self-reflecting money is the standard. The role of the ‘head’ of this ego is that of the observer, the third, the tracker of gifts, of who got what, and who gave what to whom.
Inner Eye point of view
Exchange changes the status of property from gift to commodity and it also changes the status or role of the subject from giver/ receiver to exchanger and from giver/receiver to tracker/observer. As a ‘third’, a person is not practicing the kind of attention by which a need of another is related to her own possible gift-giving initiative. Rather it is seen with detachment.
There is a nurturing ‘I’ however, with an attitude of subjectivity that not only gives in response to the requests of others but is able to provide the kind of other oriented attention required to guess the needs of others who cannot or do not ask for what they need (no effective demand). This kind of other orientation is also necessary for language, as we have been describing it. That is, we speak in the language of the other, communicating about what we know or divine that they do not know already, and that they therefore have a (communicative) need to know. The ‘exchange ego’ is a subjectivity appropriate to the market, which observes and calculates what others need in order to get what it needs. The nurturing subjectivity is disbelieved and discredited by the exchange ego, which tries to direct as many gifts as possible towards itself in the form of profit. The consciousness of giving to the other is replaced by a consciousness of the general equivalent in its relation to the many ie, money in relation to commodities, in an evaluation that ignores the gift giving that is its opposite, the other side of the coin.
Corresponding to the two kinds or moments of subjectivity let us surmise that there are two gazes, which we may call the ‘gift gaze’ and the ‘exchange gaze’. We can look at others and ourselves also noticing what others need and what we have to give, or on the other hand, what others have, what they have gotten from others and what we might get from them. The exchange gaze is a gaze of counting, categorization and dominance while the gift gaze attributes value to the other by identifying needs in order to satisfy them, listening and non-judgmental creative receptivity. The gazes are asymmetrical and recognizable but I believe we usually deny and do not name their specificity.
Kenneth Wright (1991) talks about the gaze between mother and child and the creation of an interpersonal space between the two. I believe we can consider the mother’s gaze a gift gaze in the sense that s/he looks at the child to see and understand h/er needs with the intent to try to satisfy them, and s/he also judges from the child’s reactions whether the needs have in fact been satisfied. That is s/he creatively receives from the child the sign-gifts, which allow her to make that judgment and give to the child appropriately. This gaze is different from the exchange gaze in which each looks at the other manipulatively to see what s/he can get, or to dominate by means of the other’s needs rather than simply to satisfy them. Mothers who are burdened by scarcity and the care of many children may not have the time to nurture their children long and thus they may need to manipulate them by rewards and punishments. Many women do begin to manipulate their children early on and the children learn to receive the exchange gaze as well as the gift gaze. Eventually they themselves learn to manipulate and to investigate others using that gaze as well. The exchange gaze is not a gaze of gratitude or a gaze for which to be grateful (Frye, (Kailo 2006). The kind of recognition that takes place with the exchange gaze fits with the exchange paradigm and looks at nature and humans as easily manipulated, mechanical, without gifts or need for gratitude and bonding. Since gift giving is not recognized as a social paradigm and logic, the gift gaze seems to be a merely private way of looking at the world, and the exchange gaze replaces it.
The exchange ego has to be set off both from other internal experiences and distinguished from the egos of others. For a masculated male this ego is excluded from its own female or gift giving experiences because it is attempting to make the person ‘superior’, to give him this ‘male’ identity, follow the rules for creating himself, his experiences, making himself not a sissy, not a girl etc. So he has to be an observer and evaluator of his own and others’ behavior to this end. Following this ‘command’: ‘Relate this thing to that word’. “Relate this masculine part of your experience, of yourself, not the sissy feminine part, to the gender term, and basis of your identity and ego and your name.” So when a male, undergoing masculation, looks at himself to say who he is, he sees (counts) the macho aspects, which he expresses as I AM and which he is validated for. If he expresses feminine or gift giving (human) aspects he is put down by his peers (other similar I AMS.) This exchange ego can be somewhat disconnected from gender and seen as neuter. Then it can be constructed in a male or female person, who strives to be in the superior category through Patriarchal Capitalist means and so at least when performing in that exchanger role does not count h/er gift giving tendencies as part of h/er identity. Most women still maintain a gift subjectivity however, since they have not been masculated and men may do so as well in spite of masculation.
Each in the exchange ego mode finds h/erself reflected in the ego oriented exchange gaze of the other. The nurturing gaze, unguarded, looks at the world in greeting, “How are you?” (what are your needs?) it asks. “Who are you?” as opposed to “what are you?” It is also a gaze of reception, of readiness to be nurtured. The nurturing gaze needs to defend itself from the exchange gaze of the other but perhaps in order to do so, it must become an exchange gaze itself. The perspective of the ego is the inner eye of the self-interested one, a single focal point of the self and on the self.
The US dollar is adorned with a picture of the ‘great seal’, the image of a pyramid with an all-seeing eye above it. We could look at the eye as an icon of ourselves with our monocular ego-oriented point of view, looking at it. Because our own eye is in the place at the top of the pyramid of our perspective we attribute our correspondent ego orientation to the ‘other’ on the dollar: George Washington, the father of our country, exemplar and representative of the authority of the state. We give life and value to the dollar just as we attribute life and value to those others whose gazes we meet. Our ‘faith’ in our money is an attribution of value to it, like the attribution of life, our inference of others’ being there behind the gaze. In the same way that we attribute authority to the king or president, we attribute value and exemplarity to our money. We also attribute to others the ability to be ‘one’ (as property owner, seller, male, member of a country, etc.) and together with them we give quantitative value to our paper money.30
George Washington’s gaze says ‘treat me as ‘one’, not as a gift gazer, with an other-oriented gaze, but as an authority to be given to, a receiver of the gift gaze (your gaze of obedience, your value-inferring gaze) which he ‘deserves’, as a one related to the many. It says “attribute authority to me: I count.” “I have the authority of the standard.” We use the dollar to exchange. We do not barter – or give. Here again is the authority of the masculated father as the exemplar of the human, making the child emulate him, taking him away from gift giving, and here is the father of his country as the market standard taking the country into the exchange mode. Like a soul-stealing photograph, (here not the camera but the photograph, the picture itself steals our souls) our money reflects us and transports us into the realm of exchange. The one who really counts however, is not the one in the money, the president, the king or head of state but… the one outside, ourselves, each one looking at the dollar, counting how much ‘I’ have, over and over again. That looped thread pulls us back into the distorted social fabric every time, validating it.
The viewer enlivens the text, the object, like movies powered by a hand crank, or a hurdy gurdy. The very ‘look’ of money makes us give it value because it is like our ego structure (and like the ego of ownership). As we give value to ourselves in self-interested exchange we give value to the money, which mediates the exchanges for us, not just practically but because, though we and the money are of different ‘dimensions’, there is a similarity in structure, a shared iconicity. Then it seems that the more money, the more ‘1’ self. The ego is just as much a social invention as money is and it uses its reflections in money to construct itself, readying itself for the process of exchange.
There is a change in level from sign to signer, number counted to counter. We are outside the dollar bill (or coin) looking at it, each of us is one and counts (it as one). The king or president counts most at one level through his power over each one. He is ‘internalized’ by the people he has power over in the hierarchy. He commands and so is the top, the ‘one above’ in each, their ‘head’. This internalization is expressed at another level by the image of his head reproduced many times. The ruler corresponds to the ego of each of the many people who use his money. ‘He’, as incarnated, as repeated in their ‘one’ egos, looks at his ‘one’ picture. So he is one counter who counts, as is each one of them. They are also many ones, as represented in the ‘tails’ side of the coin and the reverse side of the dollar.31 In this way the one-many concept relation expressed in government comes together with the one-many concept relation expressed in money: in these icons of heads of government ‘ones’ that one-many property owners and ego-oriented exchangers pass from hand to hand, giving them to ‘one’ another instead of gifts (and they are all icons, substitutes for the act of substitution of the not-giver for the giver, the father for the mother, the one for the many.)
It is as if by bringing the ego of the counter forward, s/he is enlisted in giving value (and faith) to money through unconsciously letting it reflect his/her ego structure/perspective in the moment. There is a kind of play of elicitation of perspective and a projection of the relation of ownership. The evaluator – the ego – and the money are the same. They (can) count. In the same way a mother looks at her baby and seeing it is alive, present, recognizes it as already intrinsically human, exchangers are called upon to attribute ‘intrinsic’ value to their money, and they do.
Visual perspective began to be represented in art along with the rise of capitalism (Goux 199?). That is, with exchange and the market as the main economic relations among persons, the point of view of each person as separate and individual was emphasized and began to be represented. That is, what I am calling the exchange ego had a moment of emergence in the Renaissance to the extent that it could be represented, causing a literal “shift in perspective.” Looking at the all-seeing eye above the pyramid on the dollar, we could think of it as the representation of this perspective of the individual, with each one as a self-interested one, with a more or less triangular spread of the field of vision, like the pyramid. This is the perspective with which we look at money and vice versa, money ‘looks’ at us. From this point of view the esoteric all-seeing eye at the top point of the pyramid is the projection of our inner eye, the eye/I that we give value to at the top of our pyramid of values in an ego oriented society. The pyramid would just be an incarnation of human PERSPECTIVE where the eye/ I dominates everything – all it surveys. This is the gaze of the ‘one’ owner who will be exchanging with others, using the ‘one’ exemplar money to get what s/he wants and add to h/er properties. We attribute life to the exchange ego construction, the proprietary ego (who is a legal entity) and we do not attribute anything to our gift giving selves.
Marx believed that exchange brought individuation, and that without it humans would have a kind of “herd consciousness like the animals.” I am not suggesting that we go back to a depthless, two-dimensional perspective, nor that we live without individuation. Denying gift giving while we are doing it and while it continues to sustain us however, places us in a situation in which some individuate at the expense of many others who give to them. The herd conscious does not cease to exist but re forms at another level, depleted, litigious and antithetical as the ego-oriented herd.
The point of view of the other is taken in exchange only because it is as ego oriented as our own. Each of us is also the spectator from the third person position, and our points of view are the same. Does the three dimensional depth we have gained in Capitalism conceal the gifts we are not seeing as well as the way we see, the similarity and the consequences of our egotism? And does our artificial structural similarity render both invisible and ‘natural’ our need to categorize ourselves in terms of an exemplar or standard, movie star, president, or even deity? Models who are hired as standards of physical beauty are successfully used to sell shampoo perhaps because it is in our exchange mode that we are most alike and most sensitive to our own possible deviance from the standard for our gender, age, race, class and physical appearance.
Commodity production in series as well as television and cinema presuppose viewers and users who are alike and therefore can be massified. Our collective self-construction as similarly separate through mutual exclusion is a particular vulnerability of market-based society. We want to be standardized so we can ‘know who we are’. But this self-knowledge is just the kind of knowledge that prepares us to be subjects and objects of exchange, sorting us into quantifiable members of categories as if we were commodities.
In our perspective as ‘thirds’ we categorize ourselves in terms of all the standards to which we are related as our equivalents. We find ourselves similar though inferior to the president in our aspect as citizens, similar though inferior to the tv anchor person in our capacity for knowledge of current events, similar though inferior to the movie star in physical appearance and mannerisms, similar though inferior to the model with the beautiful hair. Fortunately we can do something about this last inferiority, making ourselves more similar to her by buying the shampoo. The kind of self-knowledge we construct using categorization according to exemplars in this way is not satisfying. The self-and-other knowledge constructed through gift giving and receiving is a much better basis for life.
Gift-giving takes place on a different plane from the knowing, which we practice as preparation for the market activity, and as immersed in the market as we are, we usually do not know we are giving. Market knowing is knowing things as categories in their value relative to each other for people in general where value is not given to need satisfaction or to people with needs who do not have money. Value is just exchange value or use value, not gift value. However this is not something we know because we cannot or do not weigh it or evaluate it.
May the scales drop from our eyes!
In gift giving, the similarity of social subjects is constructed as they satisfy one another’s material and communicative needs. As givers of verbal and nonverbal gifts, and of specific material, psychological and spiritual gifts to satisfy specific needs, we are similarly other-oriented. Our similarity consists of giving and receiving material gifts and services, but also of reasoning, problem solving, work, creativity, activism, art and verbal gift giving, what we say and talk about, providing each others’ common ground. All this is property only secondarily if at all. It is creativity, ingenuity and sharing. Our own and others’ sociality is also a common ground from which we draw gifts of self-confidence, identity and enjoyment. The knowledge of others and of the world around us that comes from satisfying needs is much more specific and variegated than the knowledge that comes from categorization. It is hands-on practical, not just abstract knowledge, though there are gifts of abstract knowledge as well.
Self observation, being a ‘third’ towards oneself, using the tracker stance towards one’s own situation, is necessary for both the masculine identity and exchange. The scale is the same mechanism as the father’s (and society’s) general judgment of the boy as male, having that quality in common with the father.32 In that judgment, the father finds the boy similar to himself. His role is that of the standard, the decider, and evaluator and others will accept his judgment. He has the standard himself, the phallus that ‘engendered’ the boy. Value is attributed to it, (even though both father and son might really rather be females.)33 When the boy grows up and finally has a son of his own, he actually accedes to the position of male exemplar in his family: as father, he now has one item that is similar, ‘relative’ to him as equivalent. Thus the child as aspirant exemplar is in a particularly paradoxical position, since the father was not really himself an exemplar of the category ‘male’ until he had at least one child, especially a son. If the father is not doing hands-on care of the child, the kind of knowledge they have of each other is abstract and categorial, and fits with market ego constructions.
The fear that the boy might be the child of another man is also informed by this possibility, that the other man would be the real exemplar in his place (as if this were a biological and not a social position). The boy satisfies father’s social desire for a son – to carry on his name, i.e. , to grow up to be an exemplar related to that name (word-gift) as its substitute exemplar.
In the scale, the yardstick, other physical gauges and measures such as the speedometer, or the thermometer and in exchange for money, the moment of comparison with the exemplar is externalized, in order to categorize various qualities of things quantitatively. Regarding the boy, quantification tells us ‘how male is he’? (The measurer is measured.) Value is equated with size, perhaps because of the difference between adults and children. Perhaps also for males, quantity is relevant as regards the size of the penis, which increases as the boy gets older, and as he becomes more socialized into the manhood script. The questions are: ‘How much can he count? How much of a male exemplar can he be?’ That is, also ‘how valuable, valorous, is he?34 The mechanism of evaluation is also internalized again and he becomes a ‘third’ towards himself, tracking how much he has received relative to others. Although he emulates his father, he is in a competition to be ‘more’ than he is and thus to take over his exemplar position.
The scale is the mechanism of the common-uncommon ground of exchange and quantification. It extrinsicates the part of the sorting process in which an individual item is compared to a standard to discover to which category it belongs, its properties and its name. In the scale we are looking at that quality which is quantity of the quality weight. In the market we are looking at the quality, which is quantity of exchange value. We attribute value to this process externally and internally. We categorize rather than reciprocally construct and we look for our own common quality and quantity, disregarding processes other than categorization, by which we would nurture and construct each other and our common ground ad hoc.
On the other hand, the balance of weights on the scale is also constructed like a common ground. The weigher creates that similarity by putting more or less on one side, giving to the plates or taking from them. S/he is the giver, but also the observer checking to see if the two sides have received the same, then making them the same so they can have the same quantitative name.35 When the scale is extended metaphorically to judgments or points of view as in a ‘balanced point of view’, we also use the term ‘objectivity’ as though through balance we could get back to the giveness and commonality of a perceptual object as our common ground.36 Perhaps because those we call “objective” are presumably satisfying a non-immediate need such as that of quantification, they leave aside emotions and require that their operations be repeatable in an identical way. In this way they create a mechanism, which contains important aspects of the logic of patriarchy concealed within it: comparison with a socially chosen standard, independence and a privileging of standardization and repeatability, as opposed to the satisfaction of needs, which always varies somewhat from case to case. The ‘objective’ common ground thus validates patriarchy.
Science and technology develop on the basis of objective weights and measures under the stimulus of the non-immediate needs of the market, the long term needs for profit that drive the ‘improvement’ in the development of means of production. New general needs are recognized or created, such as needs for armaments, but their use is displaced beyond the area of objectivity in which the market itself also appears to participate. Thus the objective common ground, which is also considered a value in the Law, in journalism and in sports, serves as a cover for patriarchy, a benign mask which allows the development of bio pathic products and corporations, oppressive legal, police and prison systems, commercial and political propaganda, while cooperative sports teams vie on level playing fields, acting out the competition to be the ‘one’ which validates and expresses the main melodramatic theme of the unacknowledged passion play of our society. Finally, the appeal to objectivity and balance is usually also an excuse for apolitical and other disengaged attitudes and even for ‘balancing’ the truth with a lie.
On the other hand the idea that ‘everyone has h/er own point of view’ comes from the ego oriented exchange perspective we have just been looking at. It denies and denigrates those gifts of the perceptual commons, which lead to collaboration and community. In this binary choice between individualism and objectivity, the gift economy is left aside and although it continues to function, it is not considered as an interpretative key for subjectivity or objectivity, and many needs are simply ignored.
It is also possible to weigh a scale, a self-referential operation asking ‘what is the value of weighing?’ that is like asking ‘what is the market worth?’ (or what is the value of quantification? what is masculinity worth, what is its ‘valor’?). We usually don’t get far enough outside of the universe of discourse based on weight or exchange value or masculinity to question those qualities or values or the mechanisms for finding them, as instead we are trying to do in this book (and that is what the peacock also does as the standard for weighing gold). The weigher is not usually weighing the scale but has accepted it as the external standard, the normal mechanism. Similarly we accept the equation of value, and the pricing and exchange of commodities for money, as the standard and normal process for estimating the value of a product as well as for relating to others and for procuring what we need. We do not look outside this universe of discourse – towards gift giving. Indeed the scale itself, masculation, and abstract concept formation, are standards of methods of weighing or deciding and influence us towards the kind of knowledge they provide. They are norms that impose and validate the norm of normativity.
The comparison of weights on the scale first comes about not visually but kinetically, with a visual result and a final visual confirmation in the balance. The kinetic sense brings in our feelings of what is more important as well as simply quantity of weight. We give importance to a felt common ground or level plane. Intensification and feeling tone are ways of counting or giving value to something. The way we kinetically sense the difference in the plates of the scale, or in things we are holding in our two hands, is a clue to our ability to add to or subtract from them to make them the same (that is, give to or give from what is in each hand).
However, in the scale as in the market, there is a division between the counted and the uncounted, the quantitative and the qualitative as there is as well in other binary oppositions such as domestic/public, inside/outside. The common quantitative standard discounts our subjective sense of the quantity of weight or exchange value, in favor of judgment by comparison with the standard, the exemplar accepted by all.
Our lives are a synthesis of sense experiences of all kinds. When we abstract from qualities, leaving aside all but one, weight for example, we already create an odd internal concentration. When we leave aside all but the quality of exchange value, we are treating a social quality as if it were sense-based, creating a false emphasis. Beyond this false emphasis, our feelings and emotions can provide an internal map to needs of all kinds. We react emotionally to the needs of others, becoming motivated to satisfy them through feeling empathy.
We can’t count what is not visible, though we may be able to feel it. So by not counting what we don’t see, we are separating emotions from quantification. We are taking all the emotions out of the exchange mode and stuffing them all in the gift mode – which also doesn’t ‘count’ and is unquantified, not displayed. The point now is to make the gift economy visible and to feel its importance intensely, so that it will count, not primarily quantitatively of course, but qualitatively, causing a shift of paradigm.
We can construct the gift perspective together with others through material and verbal communication, in spite of the regime of exchange in which we are living. We can create a meta-level, which will make what has been previously invisible into our common topic, a common ground upon which to construct a vision of the future. This is a relatively easy and accessible first step towards creating radical and lasting social change.
When the concept is transferred into the quantitative mode as it is with money, similarity is transformed into equality. Looking back at language from the viewpoint of the market we can see relations of similarity in the reflected light of these relations of equality.
Both the head and the tail turn outward but as such they are indifferent to other instances of coins because they are only important quantitatively. As such they reflect the relations between the people who use them, who are indifferent to each others’ needs except as quantities of effective demand.
As many instances of the ‘one’ identity, coins are thus similar to the masculated identity, the many men who are ‘ones’. Males are ones in relation to women and children as the many, while coins are ones in relation to commodities as many. Then coins like men are arranged in hierarchies.
A word in any particular instance of its use in parole does not have the character of general equivalent with regard other instances of the same word. Rather it is a member of the class of that word, one of many instances. It can be taken out of the flow and looked at singly, whereupon it is considered in its polarity. As soon as it is taken out of the flow it loses the character of one among many it had in the flow. Vice versa as soon as it is taken out of the flow it gains the character of one to many, which it loses when it used in combination with other words (though it still maintains a polarity with the many it represents). However the word taken as exemplar of the class made up of instances of that word, still maintains the polarity with the words ‘in use’, it is not only the equivalent of the word taken out of context in the exemplar position ie. other uses of itself as exemplar but also of instances of that word ‘in the flow’.
Jean-Josef Goux (1990) has done some important work comparing the general equivalent to various social and psychological patterns. He doesn’t refer to Vigotsky but goes deeply into the development of the general equivalent. Among many other things, he discusses the convergence of the ‘head’ and the law and compares the sign or symbol (from the Greek word symbolon) to a token broken in two by means of which two travellers can recognize each other. Here the issue of the self identity of the coin or word is expressed in the two pieces rather than the two sides of the many coins or the self reflection of the peacock.
Balance of two eyes brings perspective – also cross over right brain left brain – both in both eyes, another repetition of the scale since left brain is standard, the sequential, naming processor? Its a question or exploration of perspective (See Goux). The focal point is like the beak, balance relates one eye to the other, creating depth perspective.
Note on Ponzio. Though Saussure may have taken the idea of langue from the stable state of market equilibrium of the School of Lausanne, I believe private property functions according to relations of mutual exclusion first developed in language. In the relation of words to each other. Nel blu dipinto di blu.
Perhaps Lacan’s “mirror stage ” is relevant here. (Would the mother see her child in the light of her own self-reflecting potentially owning ego? But of course, as a woman, she is not likely to be the owner of much money or much property.)
Balance itself becomes the standard of human relations. The metaphor of balance that is now used in discussions of politics and the environment surely comes from the scale, which incarnates the equation of economic value or of weight value. I believe we should beware of this metaphor as bringing with it exchange paradigm thinking.
In fact in the same way that the scale is an externalization of our kinetic sense and decision making process, money is an externalization of our concept forming process, especially as it takes the place of gift giving (and as the father takes the place of the mother as exemplar for the category ‘human’.)
New needs develop along with new practices. For example, paying tributes and taxes required quantification, which was developed to satisfy that need, even if the practice of tributes was exploitative.
In this way the father standard attributes the quality of ‘intrinsic’ maleness to the boy. The lead is not a one to many giver of all kinds of things (as chief in potlatch may have been), but its gifts are limited in scope to the needs of a one to many knower, evaluator or definer.
This is one more example of my philosophy, which I call “nel blu dipinto di blu.” (In the blue, painted blue). We recognize something because we are that way ourselves. We emphasize weight because weight is a kind of emphasis. Women recognize gift giving as possible because they are already doing it.
Then the coin is tossed and turns over and over, as what is internalized is externalized again, or what is external is internalized again – and the dimension of chance is added, like the chance that makes one male or female, rich or poor. It’s a gamble. The coin thrower is the knower satisfying a need to know (binary) yes or no, right or wrong, gift or exchange. But if exchange comes up, there are two parts again: mine or yours, money or commodity etc. Is tossing the coin a meta use of the coin or just an alternative use?
The displacement of roles onto the collective has had other, more positive results. Many people from the South immigrate to the North in order to work so as to maintain their families at home, establishing a flow of gifts without which the Southern economies would not survive. These gifts unfortunately are also used pay the interest on the debts the rulers of the countries have contracted with the Northern entities like World Bank and IMF. Thus Northern countries appear to ‘practice gift giving’ towards countries in the South (who they are otherwise exploiting) because of the remittances coming from the work and sacrifice of millions of immigrants. See Maria Jimenez contribution in A Radically Different Worldview is Possible. Peggy Antrobus has discussed this issue in meetings of the gift paradigm group.(personal communication).
In fact we are actually giving a gift to our money as well, because inflation devalues it, yet we give for it the same amount we did before. So actually our attribution of identity to our paper money leaves the fact of inflation in suspension and the gift surreptitiously slips away from us to our government and banks.
This is like God pointing and Adam pointing back in Michelangelo’s fresco (see For-Giving p.264). Or rather this is Adam (ourselves) pointing and God (George Washington) pointing back because the president is a more general equivalent than ourselves . Now styles have changed and many countries put national heroes instead of rulers on their money, in a moreself conscious iconography. The idea of ‘multitude’ as Negri and Hardt ( ) see it lacks a vision of the proliferation of the one-to-many relation at all levels of society. The multitude cannot leave its relation to the ‘one’ if the families in which it is organized have one to many structures or if the egos of the people of whom it is composed are created in a one-to-many form or if money continues to occupy its practice and its imaginary or if it continues to be dominated by one-to-many deities.
As we have been saying the father also has the characteristic of being or seeming to be the authority, the one who decides. This characteristic is perhaps represented by the different quantity names or marks made upon the standard, such as weight names written on the different quantities of lead.
Striving to be the exemplar informs the idea sociobiologists have of evolution, as the selfish gene tries to perpetuate itself at the expense of others. Finding this masculine agenda in the scientists who invented the theories should make us at least question its validity in the theories themselves.
Weighing can thus be seen as a representation of naming, and an abstraction from communication. When we look at these transpositions of linguistic and communicative processes, such as weighing, exchange and evaluation in money,language and communication proper become less mysterious.