Online Seminar 23 November - 4 December: David Graeber On the moral grounds of economic relations


Everyone has heard of Marcel Mauss's The Gift, some have even read it. But it remains one of the most misunderstood texts in the anthropological canon. This is mainly because gifts are usually thought of as a unitary category opposed to the self-interest on which commerce depends. David Graeber begins by showing that the idea of the gift combines transactions based on diverse sociological principles. In this he is closer to Mauss than are many contemporary interpreters of the essay. But what he takes from Mauss is a vision and method that is counter-intuitive from a modernist perspective. This is that the basic forms of economic life are present in all societies, but are given different emphasis in particular combinations. This means that radical alternatives to capitalism can build on established practices that have been subordinated to money-making, but by no means eliminated.

David rejects the bourgeois assumption that exchange is always the dominant factor in economic life. It is however one of three modes of economic organization that have a claim to being universal in varying degree. The others are communism and hierarchy. By the first he does not mean the pattern associated with socialist states in the twentieth century, but 'everyday communism', from each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs, a principle that he claims is synonymous with 'baseline sociality'. Hierarchy often draws on a rhetoric of reciprocity, but its principle is quite the opposite of exchange.

David Graeber is a distinguished economic anthropologist whose Toward an Anthropological Theory of Value (2001) has been seminal and Lost People (2007), on a former slave community in Madagascar, is a unique historical ethnography. His reflections on economy have culminated in a synthesis, Debt: The First 5,000 years (January 2011). But to some extent all this work is a means to a political end. David is a well-known anarchist whose engagement has led to the publication of Direct Action: An Ethnography (2009) and several collections of essays.

David may be something of a revolutionary, but he is also a tremendous scholar with a passion for learning. There is no living anthropologist from whom I have learned as much as from him. I am sure you will too. Please do not hesitate to join in our discussions. On the moral grounds of economic relations: a Maussian approach may be found on the OAC Press main page and a pdf version downloaded, if you prefer.

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The Romans discouraged gift-giving as a way of trying to limit the power of wealthy patrons. We have a similar problem today with corporate donations. But gift-giving was far more prominent in medieval Europe, where relations based on personal hierarchy predominated. The French revolutionaries tried to abolish gifts because they wanted to establish equal rights of inheritance against the practice of parental discrimination in favour of a single beneficiary. This suggests that, whereas for us gifts are seen through the lens of contract law, for them gifts infringed rules of succession.

Richard Hyland, in his monumental study of comparative western law Gifts (2009), argues that the legal concepts devised for market contracts simply do not work for gifts anywhere. The Europeans consider gifts to be contracts and twist their contractual concepts in order to try to govern them. In common law countries, gift-giving is partly governed by contract law (gift promises), partly by the need to assure certainty for property transfers while respecting the donor’s intent. In both traditions, confusion endlessly results. No matter how the law attempts to regulate the gift, it fails because gifts are governed by customary norms that involve factors far beyond what the law is accustomed to consider in relation to spot contracts.

My question is do you think Mauss made a strong contrast between gifts and contracts and where do you stand on this issue? Could the gift be understood in some sense as the customary (non-contractual) element in contract law?

I have been impressed in longer versions of your argument here by your explanation of why the western middle classes train their children to say please and thank you. At some stage, not necssarily now, it would be great if you could make that case for the benefit of OAC readers.
I liked what I read, especially this one:

"For all the vast literature on “the gift,” the concept is surprisingly under-theorized."

Is the term/word/expression/utterance "gift" so generic that it can be expounded and applied to all forms of giving and of receiving? A life of a newborn, a successful rescue of a flood survivor, a freedom given to a pardoned inmate can be dealt with as gifts. Kickbacks and bribes that strengthen a web of corruption are gifts. America's financial and developmental aids to the third world are also gifts. Maybe we should extend our theorizing of "gift" beyond gift-giving and receiving as a social practice, ritual, or contract that establishes and strengthens a group relationship.

When we say "gift," is it imperative to have a giver and a receiver so there will be a relationship a gift seals? I have friends who work hard so they can buy themselves expensive stuff they call "my gift to myself." Gift-giving and receiving in that instance is individualist marked by self-sacrifice and self-reward. I see the same thing among dieters who need motivations. They deprive themselves of eating something fattening for a week and binge on it afterwards as a payback they call "a treat," which is really no different to a gift. It seems to me a gift can be exchanged without requiring two or more participants.

Can we look at gift-giving and receiving as an initiation where once one gives or receives, he becomes a member of a group, relationship, or network? I see this kind of exchange among fraternities that practice hazing, cults that live in communes and believe that an individual's contribution is his gift to the group, and gangs that kill as their way of giving a gift and proving loyalty. Even in Catholicism, once a child receives the "body of christ," which is treated as a gift that is related to salvation, he becomes a catholic.

Can "gift" be thoroughly discussed without including its biosociality that touches altruism and reciprocity as a natural process of balancing need and resource and an instinctive way of dealing surplus and scarcity? In a community populated by fishermen and rice farmers, for example, gift-giving and receiving can be nutritional and nothing else. A certain quantity of rice (carbohydrate) is given in relation to a certain quantity of fish (protein) received. It doesn't have to be exclusive between two people. "Gift" can also be analyzed vis-a-vis reproduction and self-preservation. In short, maybe the process of giving and receiving is biological or biosocial.
I enjoyed this paper very much and in fact I already use an earlier version in teaching as a companion piece to Levi-Strauss chapter on 'Reciprocity'. It catches some basic distinctions in a helpful way and I don't object to the polemical use of words like communism or hierarchy. One point that occurred to me on reflection was that in a Levi-Straussian scheme sharing is, you might say, pre-differential. Sharing is what happens when no real differences are visible between people (or people, animals, plants, rocks whatever) in the immediate field. Reciprocity establishes differences and uses them to build more complicated arrangements of relationship. Hierarchy is an offshoot of the logic of reciprocity as differences become increasingly substantial.

The argument made me think of Leach's Kachin Burma where there are shifts from equality to hierarchy and back again and where the people involved know that for their neighbours hierarchy is the dominant idiom. There seems to be a message here that some varying mix of commmunism, reciprocity, hierarchy is necessary for a healthy social life but that the preeminence of any one of these ideologically is dangerous. Of course, they are ideal types or ideals, so the connection between deploying the idea and establishing a particular kind of social form concretely are two quite different things. What I enjoyed was the clarity with which we are able to see a link between the ideas and the social possibilities.
Wow, thanks much for saying so, Keith. I can't begin to recount all the things I have learned from you. Anyway, I'm really eager to see what people think of this little effort. It is at the same time modest (I know I cannot begin to cover the full range of any of the subjects I am trying to open up here) and almost insanely ambitious - since I am trying to completely reframe the way we think about even some of the most casual, everyday aspects of our social existence. For instance, the point about hierarchical transactions being organized as the exact opposite of reciprocity was an understanding long in coming (it all started when I read Marc Bloch's feudalism as a young man, and the passage cited struck me as enormously important, but it took me decades to figure out why) but once said, it becomes something of a mystery why no one has pointed it out before. It just suddenly seems kind of obvious.

Anyway as I say I'm quite eager to see what people think.
Keith's juxtaposing of gift and contract is very interesting. I wonder if we can extend Milgrom and Robert's idea on incomplete contracts to accommodate the concept of gift. There are cultures that engage in verbal but formal contracts. If such contracts are not met, they resort to gifts to avoid conflict and bad relation. An incomplete contract, therefore, can become relational if gift is involved, and the relationship between the forgiver and the forgiven is based on debt of gratitude. Asian businessmen are famous for this. They practice "word of honor." If they cannot keep what has been aggreed upon, they resort to gift so they won't "lose face." If their gifts are accepted, all parties are grateful, and nobody ruins his reputation.

I don't quite get the idea that heirarchical transaction is organized as opposed to reciprocity. Reciprocity, I think, is the simplest and most organized because it is the act that is reciprocated. An act of giving is reciprocated with another act. Example, if one gives someone a ride, such act is reciprocated by the latter in some way, maybe going out for dinner or watching a movie. The quantity and quality of what is given or received and the status and background of the giver or receiver are not important. Exchange is the quantification of reciprocity. What is given is equal, related, or proportional to what is received. Heirarchical transaction involves class, status, gender, and all features present in receprocity and exchange. It is a complex transaction. It should be expected to be so because heirarchy in gift-giving and receiving is born out of conflict and chaos--it can be war, famine, or economic crisis. One can demand what to receive, and another can negotiate what to give.
I think what is at issue here is our definition of reciprocity. If "reciprocity" just means that there are two parties both of whom do something to or for the other (one can have a reciprocal exchange of blows after all), then "reciprocity" is just "interaction" or maybe "binary interaction" and I at least can think of no reason why we need to use the expression "reciprocity" at all - "interaction" will do. If it is an exchange of like for like in some way, trading jokes or trading blows, even if they don't balance out, well, then the point about exchange being the quantification of reciprocity, or that reciprocity can be of radically different or incommensurable things, is no longer true. If reciprocity is the exchange of things that are in some way assumed to be equivalent, and tending towards some sort of balancing out, then the point about "exchange being the quantification of reciprocity" is either no longer true, or makes exchange a very specific thing, much more so than we ordinarily consider it, since, exchanging favors or greetings becomes either an idle metaphor, or itself a form of quantification, which strikes me as unwieldy.

My preference then is rather to see reciprocity as the moral principle that in certain circumstance, each side should give as good as they get, in some sense, however vague or abstract, that justice is a matter of balancing out. Hence the famous scales as a symbol of justice. An eye for an eye. Do unto others. Almost all expressions of abstract justice tend to rely on the language of reciprocity.

It seems to me that while we tend to _justify_ almost all social relations in terms of reciprocity ("this is how we repay our parents..."), in actual practice, very different principles often apply. In practice, expectations of reciprocity apply above all to equal arrangements - I think the statement that the status of the parties to a gift exchange is irrelevant is in most cases simply untrue. That's why I gave the example of the economist. If a colleague takes Milton Friedman out to dinner, sure, he would feel he should pay him back some way, even if his economic theory tells him he shouldn't have to, whether through a dinner of equivalent or slightly better status, or something else that might be considered equivalent. (Not too little, if he gave him a box of paper clips, that would just be ignored, if he gave him a car, it would be considered weird and make everybody freak out and worry what he was up to.) But the "not too little not too much" applies to the status of the person who takes you out to dinner too and that was my real point. If the giver is too rich (Bill Gates) or too low-status (an eager graduate student) the dinner is unlikely to be reciprocated - in the first case, he will say, "great, I really did get something for nothing" as the economic theory says he should, in partly because there's no point in even trying to try to establish equivalence with Bill Gates, and if the second, because he'll probably figure he's indulging the lowly grad student enough just to take him up on the offer to begin with. The latter case is instructive, I think. In such a case, asked why he didn't take the graduate student out to dinner later, after laughing at the very idea, he would probably say "I think my acceptance of the offer" or "my time" or "my indulgence" or however he might frame it "is payment enough." My point is that this is a secondary justification, and not the essence of what's going on here. It just shows that we try to justify things in the abstract, if we have to think about them in the abstract, by a logic of reciprocity, because that's our primary language of morality. In reality, in hierarchical situations such as these, the first thing we think of is not reciprocity, but identity - we think about what sort of person we are dealing with, what sort of person we are, and justify what happens due to that. Thus for instance, Yunxiang Yan, in "The Flow of Gifts", notes that in a Chinese village, there's a continual flow of gifts from lowly villagers to officials that are almost never reciprocated, and if you ask an official why they don't, they'll simply say, "well, [low-class] people like that are selfish and immoral and if they give me something they're probably just trying to curry favor with me to get something for themselves so why should I reward them for that?" Sure, an economist might be particularly inclined to dress this up as an exchange ("sure, he put out some cash for dinner, but he gained access to a major figure in the department, and a chance to tell others he had dinner with Milton Friedman, so I think that's payment enough") - but that's again a secondary justification, it's not like a professor of equivalent formal rank wouldn't be able to boast of having dinner with the famous colleague also, and Friedman likely _would_ feel obliged to reciprocate the gesture. After all, as we are all well aware, any interaction, even giving a dollar to a beggar, can be turned into an exchange if you are really determined to make it so. But if you do that systematically, it again makes "exchange" synonymous with "interaction" and the term loses all explanatory power.


M Izabel said:

I don't quite get the idea that heirarchical transaction is organized as opposed to reciprocity. Reciprocity, I think, is the simplest and most organized because it is the act that is reciprocated. An act of giving is reciprocated with the same act. Example, if one gives someone a ride, such act is reciprocated by the latter in some way, maybe going out for dinner or watching a movie. The quantity and quality of what is given and the status and background of the giver are not important. Exchange is the quantification of reciprocity. What is given is equal, related, or proportional to what is received. Heirarchical transaction involves class, status, gender, and all features present in receprocity and exchange. It is a complex transaction. It should be expected to be so, because heirarchy in gift-giving and receiving is born out of conflict and chaos--it can be war, famine, or economic crisis. One can demand what to receive, and another can negotiate what to give.
Re the notion that the gift remains under-theorized, I note the absence from the references of Maurice Godelier (1999) The Enigma of the Gift, which includes a close reading and critique of both Mauss and Levi-Strauss and builds on the work of Annette Weiner as well as Godelier's own ethnography of the Baruya to develop the notion that understanding things which are kept and not exchanged is essential for understanding things which are exchanged and, thus, the nature of gifts in hierarchical vs. non-hierarchical settings.
Oh and as for the contract...
Well, my understanding of the matter is - yes, I think Durkheim's concern with the "non-contractual element in contract" is very much at the heart of what motivated Mauss to write about the gift in the first place. Remember he claimed that essay was, he claimed, a preliminary progress report on a larger investigation of the origins of the notion of contractual obligation that he was working on along with fellow Durkheimian George Davy, who had already published an analysis of the potlatch from this perspective in Foi Juree, a ponderous, unreadable work that no one ever cites (except Mauss, who mentions it several times in The Gift) because... well, because it's so ponderous and unreadable. Now, if I am not mistaken, for Durkheim, the non-contractual element in contract was the legal apparatus that regulates and enforces it - it was by pointing out that this was growing, not shrinking, over the course of time that he refuted Spencer's argument that free contractual relations were in the process of replacing the state (which he considered a feudal hold-over). But of course you know all this. Mauss seems to have been trying to demonstrate that, rather than the original contract being a Hobbesian social contract required to create the force of the state which could then serve to enforce all other contracts, made necessary by our self-interested, aggrandizing natures, the original contract was a gift relation, basically, an agreement not to act in self-interested, aggrandizing ways that would require state enforcement. However, this essentially means, no contract at all in the contemporary sense of the term - just obligation. In that sense, Sahlins is right I think that Mauss was taking up the Hobbesian problem.

Myself, I wonder if any of this really works. I'd be willing to be convinced. But it strikes me that contracts, in our familiar Roman law sense at least, are kind of intrinsically - they always imply actors who cannot be trusted to act on good faith, and therefore, which require some sort of means of external enforcement. That's the non-contractual - in the sense of, not agreed to by the two parties - element. In the original version of my debt book (in a section ultimately cut out by my editor) I actually made a great point of this. The passage might be worth including since no one is going to see it elsewhere anyway I guess:

[begin cited text]

A history of debt is, of necessity, a history of money. Also of contracts, since the earliest contracts we know about are usually debt contracts. Here again, we encounter a whole welter of confusions and dilemmas as old as civilization, which never seem to go away. The moral status of marriage is a dramatic case in point. There’s a famous obnoxious story about the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who seems to have had something of a habit of getting drunk at elite social events and saying rude things to women. It’s set at some elegant dinner party, c. 1910:

Churchill: [approaching high society lady] Tell me, madam, would you marry me for five million pounds?
Socialite: I suppose I might consider it. Why? Are you proposing?
Churchill: Would you sleep with me for five?
Socialite: [slapping him across face] Honestly! What sort of woman do you think I am?
Churchill: We’ve already established that. Now, we’re merely haggling over the price.

The reason the story is so obnoxious is that Churchill is basically rubbing the woman’s face in the fact that, this being 1910, she can’t go off and become a Foreign Minister, industrialist, general, or professor, or much of anything except a Foreign Minister, industrialist, general, or professor’s wife. It also draws attention to the fact that, for the upper classes, marriage is and has always been a property arrangement. The irony is that very rich and powerful men like Churchill, then as now, never seem to be able to have sex with anyone without money changing hands at least in the background (wives, prostitutes, secretaries, maids—that pretty much runs the gamut), but never find anything in any way embarrassing about this fact themselves.
The remarkable thing about the story is it goes back to a dilemma as old as civilization: what happens when money, which whether in Ghana, Sumer or ancient Greece begins as something used mainly for arranging marriages and never for buying beer or radishes, let alone hiring the services of prostitutes, suddenly becomes something that can used equally for all these things. The problem never goes away because it is enshrined in our legal institutions. What is marriage? Well, legally it’s just a contract. Therefore it has the exact same status as a loan: it is a voluntary agreement between two parties, spelling out the exact responsibilities of each, enforceable by law. True, as feminist commentators point out, it’s in many ways a very strange sort of contract, since unlike commercial contracts, the parties to the contract have almost no say in what they are agreeing to. Almost everything about it is not negotiated between the parties but established in advance, even including what kind of people can enter into the contract to begin with (one man, one woman: no other number or combination is permissible). What makes it even stranger in this context is that, ordinarily, a contract is what you only need to insist on when dealing with people you can’t trust. This is why everything has to be set out in writing and made legally enforceable, which means, that either party can appeal to lawyers, courts and judges, and ultimately, orders backed up with the full powers of prisons and police. It’s also why the parties to the contract are able to specify everything exactly in the first place: in relations based on trust, love, and mutual devotion, everything is always much more flexible. Legally, one peculiar result is that, most contracts not only involve money, they have to involve money so as to establish it’s that kind of arrangement; contracts are not legally binding unless some money changes hands. Gifts for instance have no legal standing. If I wish to give a friend my car, and also want to transfer legal title, then normally, I have to pretend to sell it to her for a dollar; there’s no legal contract otherwise. Money has to change hands in order for the contract to come into force. And of course in a marriage contract it’s the same thing, except in this case, the contract isn’t sealed until the marriage is “consummated.”
Legally, the act of sexual penetration has the exact same status as the transfer of the dollar. Is it any wonder some people make jokes?



Keith Hart said:

My question is do you think Mauss made a strong contrast between gifts and contracts and where do you stand on this issue? Could the gift be understood in some sense as the customary (non-contractual) element in contract law?

I have been impressed in longer versions of your argument here by your explanation of why the western middle classes train their children to say please and thank you. At some stage, not necssarily now, it would be great if you could make that case for the benefit of OAC readers.
I must say personally I was rather underwhelmed by Godelier's book - especially because so much of it was effectively, an expansion on a relatively minor point in Weiner's book where she cites a footnote in Marcel Mauss' essay on the gift, which explains that the coppers that are given in potlatches are really minor versions of the truly valuable ones that are never given away. This is the problem I have with this. It's not true. I seem to be the only person who, before writing on the topic, actually took the bother to chase up the references in Mauss' footnote. Generally speaking, Mauss was very sloppy with his notes and references, and sure enough, none of the sources he cites in that one say anything vaguely like that - insofar as they mention coppers at all, which some don't even do that. Granted, he might have just been getting his dates and pages wrong as he so often does. So then I went through the larger literature on coppers, and found that, nope, no reference to inalienable coppers that are kept within lineages and never given away (let alone which are the master objects of which others are merely imitations) appear anywhere in the literature. No such objects ever existed. There are endless references to coppers that are traded, broken, etc, and none, anywhere, to inalienable ones. This is true of all the good sources: Boas, Curtis, Drucker & Heizer, Ford, Duff, Widerspach-Thor... So what am I going to think of the argument of a book that manages to spend an entire chapter on Kwakiutl practices that don't exist based on one footnote in a secondary source to which the author apparently didn't even bother to check against the primary material? I mean, it's true, Testart, in Critique du Don, in referring to my reanalysis of the primary literature on the hau, excused himself by remarking that the Journal of the Polynesian Society and other original sources I used weren't really available in France, but I have to assume Godelier could at least have got his hands on the material Mauss and Davy used - it's presumably still sitting in the same libraries. This makes me disinclined to take most of the rest of what he says all that particularly seriously.


John McCreery said:
Re the notion that the gift remains under-theorized, I note the absence from the references of Maurice Godelier (1999) The Enigma of the Gift, which includes a close reading and critique of both Mauss and Levi-Strauss and builds on the work of Annette Weiner as well as Godelier's own ethnography of the Baruya to develop the notion that understanding things which are kept and not exchanged is essential for understanding things which are exchanged and, thus, the nature of gifts in hierarchical vs. non-hierarchical settings.
Thanks, Davd, for the source critique. I wondered if there weren't something like this behind your not mentioning Godelier. That said, I still wonder if this might be one of those cases in which a flawed empirical base obscures some usefully provocative ideas. One reason Godeler's analysis appealed to me is that our company does a lot of work related to art museum exhibits and the notion of a system of circulating valuables in which only the original owner has the right to remove the valuables from circulation, even sell them, while others only get temporary use of the items, which ultimately come back to the original owner, seems at least at first glance to be a good description of the ways in which museums build and maintain prestige by lending works from their collections and displaying works from other collections on a temporary basis.

I also found the notion of equivalent gifts that leave both sides indebted and, thus, sustain a relationship of equals, in contrast to payments, which cancel debts and, thus, destroy relationships intriguing.
With gift, reciprocity, contract, exchange, or even transaction, it is not easy to come up with generalizing theories due to the fact that every culture has its own notions of giving, receiving, debt, value, ethics, gratitude uniquely expressed in its own language. Philippines alone has several concepts related to gift, reciprocity, exchange, and contract. Every ethnic group or cultural community has its own terms, concepts, and practices.

I don't know why treating someone to dinner because he gave one a ride is not reciprocity but interaction. Interaction, in my view, should be out of the picture since all forms of giving and receiving can be through interaction. Even a bystander's reaction to someone's gift given to a different person is interaction. I see the need to define reciprocity and situate it specifically in a culture, so we will not be confusing ourselves.

Filipinos have a concept of "utang na loob"-- literally, "inside debt." It is actually a debt of gratitude that should not be forgotten. It is even inherited. "Gratitude" exists in all languages and dialects I know because we view giving and receiving as acts we keep in our memory as payment and debt we have to remember.

In his paper, "Utang na Loob: A Philosophical Analysis," Francis Dancel (2005) wrote:

"While there is definitely an obligation on the part of the beneficiary to repay utang na loob,
such an obligation remains unquantifiable in terms of amount and duration. Many Filipinos
nurse such an obligation over extremely long periods of time, sometimes even transcending
the lifetimes of the original beneficiaries and benefactors. In such cases, utang na loob, is
passed on to the sons and daughters of both parties as some sort of legacy, to be fulfilled
as faithfully as it was by their parents."
I hope I'm not out of topic. Sorry also for my double post.

I often read "gift economy" being explained in contrast to "market economy" or even "barter economy," which I experienced as a child in our village that slightly practiced it while transitioning to a full market economy.

I'm not really sure if there is such a thing called "gift economy"? I look at it as a Western conceptualization intellectually employed to exoticize the "other" and romanticize the "uncivilized" untouched by realities experienced by the "civilized" such as market economy and supply-demand relationship. If you check all papers and books written about the concept of gift, most cited examples are the exotic ones such as kula, moka, potlatch, korima. Are welfare checks and food stamps from the US government not gifts? Are Secret Santa and Kris Kringle in Canada and Australia not forms of gift exchange? Are land ownership certificates distributed by politicians in India to their constituents not gifts? Is giving red envelop (ang pow) with real money inside during Chinese New Year not a form of gift-giving and receiving? I guess jungle life is more exciting and interesting to White men.

I suspect the so-called "gift economy" is either a distribution of wealth or a demonstration of power or both. America's financial donations and loans given to developing countries do not make its political economy a "gift" one. America surely asserts and demonstrates its global power by giving away some of its wealth to its allies. A chief distributing his wealth in the form of gifts in a potlatch also strengthens his influence among members of his tribe or group. I don't see any conceptual differences between the two examples, besides the former is macro and the latter is micro in relation to scope and significance.

Is "gift economy" actually a primitive form of market economy? In moka, for example, live pigs are exchanged. A pig is valuable and treated as if a currency. When a participant does not have enough pigs, he has sweet potatoes to exchange for a pig or two. There is barter economy, too, in the economic system they call "gift economy." If there is something valuable in a community or a culture, it will be demanded or supplied. Aren't demand and supply features of market economy? Raising pigs is labor-intensive from birth to moka exchange. Men build pigpens, children feed them, wives warm them near the hearths inside their huts, and some women in Papua New Guinea even breast-feed them. Isn't that a division of labor, which is present in market economy? I think we should check what happen outside or beyond the venue of an exchange and study what participants do before and after it happens. Exchange is just one of the gatherings the people in a Papuan community practice. I don't think one gathering is enough to define the community's economy.

I have no problem with "gift culture" that has nothing to do, in contrast or comparison, with market economy. It is more appropriate, and makes more sense.

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