relational or differential economics

To begin with, unlike the sale of a commodity, the giving of a gift tends to establish a relationship between the parties involved.*

* It is this element of relationship which leads me to speak of gift exchange as an “erotic” commerce, opposing eros (the principle of attraction, union, involvement which binds together) to logos (reason and logic in general, the principle of differentiation in particular). A market economy is an emanation of logos.
—Lewis Hyde, The Gift, p. xx (Introduction)

The cultural moment seems to be begging for a thoughtful exposé of the ways our ever-increasing focus on capitalism as our ruling ethic ever-increasingly damages us, because we then ignore our connectedness… and as humans, made of hormones like oxytocin and dopamine, to be connected is to survive. To be deeply and widely connected is to thrive.

I know this is so because I hear the words I’m using here placed in tension in all sorts of venues. Heck, I started mulling this during a conversation in October 2017—we were in her car during rush hour in Austin, she was frustrated with her fam, and I was struck by how the behaviors that angered and repulsed her were again and again transaction-based, when what she seemed to crave was connection without extra/reciprocal action. That, and how it sounded like the fam-folk in their turn kept getting angry when they didn’t gain a connectional response (like affection, or delight) from their transaction-based offers.

This was a bigger post then. Kind of a theological sociology book, in fact, which to do well would require research in order to flesh out the thesis (along with making sure my informal synthesis holds steady!) and better embed the material into hearts and minds. I’m eagerly looking forward to someone creating that book. Unless the world holds still until I get the opportunity-!

This lowly Wednesday of my second week of the term: not writing the book. Or even the deeper post. Still, I found it an interesting synchronicity to come back past the topic again as I finished up The Gift in August. Related-ness and difference: is it more important to explore how we’re related, or how we’re individual? And even if you say—like I do—that both are needed,

have you been keeping track as to whether they’re staying in balance? Or are you, like the bath of culture, mostly individuating with only a pinch of overlap-affirmation?

Within The Gift, Hyde goes on to align related-ness, which he calls attraction, with abundance and difference with scarcity. Thus tidily bringing out the third of my worrisome pairs—how is it we keep narrating scarcity to ourselves and each other, when abundance is at least equally true? As one example, I have been observing how my sense of time is somehow colloidal… the more I squeeze my time with worry, the less I seem to have—but when I remind myself that there’s time enough for what God needs of my time, my sense of it gently expands into ease.


There’s so many threads that ravel into this and can be unravelled from it, it’s no wonder that I kept setting it aside to “the right time” to work on it. This wasn’t “the right time” from an “I can fully tackle this” standpoint, but it’s right enough in that I’ve acknowledged that “fully” would be TL;DR for blog-form…

…and right enough in that it was time to put The Gift away. There are plenty of schoolbooks now to fill that shelf!

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