The subject matter of this book – at the intersection between feminism and linguistics, economics, semiotics, and sociology – is a fundamental part of our humanity that we have not seen before, or named as such. Not that people have not studied what they call ‘gift exchange’, but they have not given it that fundamental interdisciplinary place that should occupy. Indeed many have believed that unilateral gift giving does not exist. I consider it both fundamental and commonplace.
The gift has been obscured for many reasons, which we will be discussing. It is strange that anything this important could have been invisible, but perhaps this also gives a measure of the importance of revealing it, not only for academic investigation but for politics. Why are we motivated to harm and egocentrism and why is our compassion dwindling? The answer may be found in the struggle between the parasite and the host, the exchange paradigm and the gift paradigm.
Another way of saying this is that gift giving has been deprived of its meta level. That is why we do not name this important aspect of life. Unilateral gift giving is not the same as unconditional love or gift giving. There are conditions – such as the identification of a need. The other person should not be hostile – in fact the hostility may mean that there is a need – for independence perhaps? – that is greater, and is not being seen by the prospective giver.
The identification of needs and agency for their satisfaction creates meaning, in language and life.