Economics as Beauty

I’ve had this theme coursing through my mind for a couple of years now that needs a closer inspection. The sociologist, Marcel Mauss explained his theory of exchange in

    The Gift

. His basic theme states that giving a gift results in an obligation to reciprocate. This economic exchange creates a social solidarity within groups.

The economic downturn challenges Mauss’ idea. Giant corporations use billions of tax dollars for personal bonuses. Supposedly, these big businesses “borrow” the money. I doubt we will ever see that money returned to us. Really, we are gifting them billions of dollars. Now, if we apply Mauss’ concept we find that the exchange is NOT reciprocal. I understand that without this help, the world would most likely implode. It’s a necessary evil, and the idea that the recession will stop would be the return on giving them money, but we can only take so much. People started making a big stink about the big bonuses this week because the American populous will not receive anything in return. We want something done because the corporations have no obligation to reciprocate.

So here is the idea: What happens when something is gifted knowing that it will not be reciprocated? What if you give something to someone, but never tell them?

I used this concept for a piece a couple of years ago. I spent time, weeks, tediously crocheting blue plastic garbage bags into strings which I hung as a curtain in a main walk way. The gift was intended for a person not yet ready to come out of the closet as gay and so as not to push them further into that darkness, I never told the person about the gift. Mauss says that in order for the gift to be reciprocated, one must give it to the person. What if the intention is bound to the object, and others know of its intent, but the recipient never knows?

Mauss also thinks that the gift binds both the giver and recipient to the object in a kind of magical way. My point is that I think that one might be able to imbue their entire being into an art piece when it is to be given to another without the recipient knowing that the gift is for them. Also, does one’s whole being stay within a purgatory while imbued in that gifted piece because it is not received?

I believe that a gift without the obligation to reciprocate is new beauty.

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2 Responses to Economics as Beauty

  1. Kelly Kapowski says:

    I think you are absolutely right. Can you imagine what the world would be like if more people gave (in whatever capacity) without expecting anything in return?

    I’m not religious, but I remember learning about the hierarchy of giving in Judaism (tried to find it online but couldn’t, so someone correct me if I’m butchering this). It explains that there are I think four levels of giving/charity and the highest is when you give anonymously and receive nothing in return. Beautiful.

  2. charlotteandrew says:

    p.s. re economics and beauty written a few days ago, and in relation to Mauss; I attended an impromptu dinner party at which 14 freshly caught snapper (fish) were to be served. At the table I spoke to a woman who mediated between South Sea Islanders and educational institutions and I asked her about the notion of gifting and whether or not it was still alive in the Islands. Firstly no one at the table had heard of the Trobriand Islands, (do they exist?) but she said ‘gifting’ had changed in nature and now all Honours could be bought for cash. This is a new idea that has completely distorted the notion of ‘gifting’ can the tide be turned?

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