Abundance is necessary for the successful practice of gift giving. Exchange competes with gift giving by capturing the abundance, channeling it into the hands of the few or wasting it, thus creating scarcity for the many.
Women and the Gift Economy: A Radically Different Worldview is Possible is an attempt to respond to the need for deep and lasting social change in an epoch of dangerous crisis for all humans, cultures, and the planet. Featuring articles by well-known feminist activists and academics, this book points to ways to re-create the connections, which have been severed, between the gift economy, women, and the economies of Indigenous peoples, and to bring forward the gift paradigm as an approach to liberate us from the worldview of the market that is destroying life on the planet. Shifting to a gift paradigm can give us the radically different worldview which will make another, better, world possible.
A gift economy embodies an oriented logic of care while exchange, upon which the market is based, contains a logic of self interest because it requires an equivalent return for what is given, satisfying the need of the ‘giver’ as opposed to those of the ‘receiver.’ Indigenous societies often continue to practice gift giving although they have now been forced into the context of the market. Many other examples of gift giving from mothering to communication and social activism abound in our society although they are unrecognized. Even free housework can be considered an unrecognized gift women are giving to their families and to the capitalist system. Through the commodification of free gift areas—such as water, traditionally grown seeds, medicinal plants—globalization captures the gifts of the many in the Global South, channeling them to the few in the North. Contributors to this volume argue that shifting to a gift paradigm can give us the radically different worldview which will make another world possible.
“Finally! This is the book we urgently need in these neoliberal, destructive, disoriented times. We all know that a profound change in our economy and culture is necessary, that we need to think in another way. But how? The authors of this collection of articles—all feminists, all peace workers, from the North and the South—demonstrate convincingly that “a radically different world view is possible” when we look at the world with Genevieve Vaughan’s radically different paradigm: gift giving instead of the coercive and compulsive exchange paradigm of the market economy.”
—Veronika Bennholdt-Thomsen, co-author of The Subsistence Perspective: Beyond the Globalized Economy and Women: The Last Colony
“Wow, what a great book. If more people could embrace this kind of thinking the world would be a much better place. In the tradition of my people one’s status in society in not based upon how much wealth one possesses and displays but rather it is based upon what one gives away. Thus according to our traditions the creators of this volume deserve special recognition as their work is a gift for the rest of us who have the privilege of reading it.”
—D. Memee Lavell-Harvard, President, Ontario Native Women’s Association and Vice President, Native Women’s Association of Canada
“Those of us honoured to know Genevieve Vaughan know that, for at least twenty years, she has been working tirelessly towards defining and describing the “gift economy, presenting it as a workable alternative to patriarchal capitalism. This anthology, Women and the Gift Economy, offers the fruit of myriad scholars on the subject, examining the gift economy from nearly every imaginable vantage point—from history, spirituality, sexuality, and matriarchal social structure to language, finance, childcare, and warfare. Moreover, Indigenous scholars working from their own cultures’ ways of knowing receive a representation and a respect equal to what is afforded their European and Euroamerican colleagues. Women and the Gift Economy is guaranteed to guide the reader into new and invigorating paradigms, clarifying the economic choices facing humanity.”
—Barbara Alice Mann, author of Iroquoian Women: The Gantowisas and editor of and contributor to Daughters of Mother Earth
“Genevieve Vaughan has for decades been active in progressive causes—generous with her time, energy, and material resources. Now she gives the best gift of all: her elegant, intelligent, and transformative thinking. This is, simply, a visionary book. Read it, let it into your heart and brain—and you will change the world.”
“The gift economy is prevalent in most ancient Indigenous societies the world over, many still existing today. Gifting operates especially well among people with fewer resources, in rural areas and urban townships. It is through sharing gifts that many of us survive. Genevieve Vaughan’s feminist gift economy is a reminder to all of us about this ancient practice still prevalent in many of our societies, especially in Africa and the global South more broadly, and her life’s work in this area perfectly epitomizes the philosophies underpinning the book: it is the gift economy in practice. Genevieve Vaughan is a gift to the world.”
—Bernedette Muthien, poet and activist, director of ENGENDER, South Africa
“This collection, in its critique of patriarchal capitalism and in its call for a logic of gift-giving over exchange, makes possible a new understanding of—and appreciation for—the true economic and social value of mothering. In this, the book is an invaluable contribution to motherhood studies.”
—Andrea O’Reilly, Associate Professor, York University, and author of Toni Morrison and Motherhood: A Politics of the Heart
“Based on Genevieve Vaughan’s theory of the gift economy, this book offers a radically different world view for 21st century feminism with powerful implications for challenging patriarchy and the market economy in building a sustainable, safe, equitable world society. In the introduction Vaughan outlines the logic and impact of the gift economy. Vaughan’s approach provides an alternative paradigm in which “mothering” in all the senses of the term is at the foundation of the social model for being human. Together with the articles that follow her introduction, the book provides a unified feminist philosophy in which the logic of social interaction is based on “gifting” that is, giving to nurture growth by satisfying needs in response to which the receiver models the giver by giving to others. This is a must read for feminists in all countries for it provides a coherent philosophical system based on the power of nurturing for rethinking political and economic thought just as the Enlightenment once based its philosophical innovations on the power of human reason.”
—Peggy Reeves Sanday, Professor of Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania and author of Women at the Center: Life in a Modern Matriarchy
“Anyone who wonders why a tree giving us oxygen is only profitable when it’s cut down, or why a train wreck increases the Gross Domestic Product but nurturing children does not, is on the way to rejecting patriarchal capitalism. Genevieve Vaughan and her collection of essays by activists and visionaries show us an alternate economic worldview that existed for most of human history, and could exist again. This brave and path-breaking book will give you hope—and hope is a form of planning.”