Gift-Giving Is not Capitalistic
Do Women and Men Think Differently about Ethics?
Science cannot stop while ethics catches up.
- Elvin Stackman
Cover for Taking Sex Differences Seriously by Steven E Rhoads
Traditional Assumption about Male/Female Difference
Kohlberg's Six Stages of Development and Their Imperatives
Jake and Amy, both aged 11, were asked the following question:
Virgina Held's Summation:
Caring, empathy, feeling with others, being sensitive to each other's feelings, all may be better guides to what morality requires in actual contexts than may abtract rules of reason or rational calculation, or at least they may be necessary components of an adequate morality.
Is it True that Men and Women Think Differently?
What isn't true:
So, even if there are different styles of moral thinking, there is no style that is exclusively male or female.
Nevertheless, it is perhaps true that men on average are more inclined to the principled approach and women on average are more inclined to the caring approach. It's not true that every single man is larger than every single woman; nevertheless, women are typically smaller: men are typically larger.
What Could Account for Such a Difference Between the Sexes?
Implications for Moral Judgment
Family and Friends
Helping Disadvantaged Children
Implications for Ethical Theory
I'm afraid the feminism described below could only be considered as viable in a utopian world of unlimited energy freely available to all. I feel that if feministic philosophy had always held sway in the real world, the life- and labour-saving devices we tend to take for granted would not exist. I've included an excerpt from Vaughan's lengthy essay, however, because she does have some good points - like what an oxymoron it is to say "exchange gifts"...
A Feminist Criticism of "Exchange"
by Genevieve Vaughan
Capitalism and communism are both patriarchal. The philosophy of social change which is wider and deeper than either of them is feminism. I believe that feminism is a collective philosophy, a body of thought and action based on the values of women world-wide, which is presently revealing itself to the consciousnesses of all. Patriarchy has infected women and men, for centuries, distorting our view of the world and warping our socio-economic practices. The agenda of feminism is to liberate everyone, women, children and men, from patriarchy without destroying the human beings who are its carriers and the planet where they live.
Trying to think outside of patriarchy puts women in a situation similar to that of the ancient pre-Socratic philosophers who were thinking at the beginning of Western patriarchal culture. If we reject the patterns of thought that have riddled and plagued European culture, there is a great deal of untrodden ground before us. We need to reconnect with our innocence, with the hearts that have not made war, that have moved us to take care of children and old people in spite of great difficulties, rather than abusing them. We need to reject the patriarchal world view and start over naively looking through our own eyes. When we stop believing what we have been told we find that the truth is there but that our ability to recognise it has been numbed and buried deep within by the strata of the history of individuals, of cultures and of the species. It is the reawakened, collectively-formulated women's perspective that proves the human species was not Mother Nature's mistake. By adopting it, women and the men who follow them can pull back everyone permanently from the destruction of human beings and of the planet.
In order to reject patriarchal thinking we must be able to distinguish between it and something else, an alternative. The disciplines of academia have a tendency to mushroom into worlds to which thousands of researchers and thinkers worldwide contribute. In spite of many "advances" they validate a view of the world and a reality in which the perpetration of abuse and domination is endemic at many levels. I believe that there is a relatively simple fatal flaw which undermines all so called "first world" thinking including the thinking of the academic worlds. We usually begin our investigations into different subjects downstream from this flaw, and therefore are already under its influence. The naive point of view allows us to begin at the beginning. Usually academics build upon the past and begin at a place so far down the course of the river that the flaw can no longer be identified. Indeed it seems to constitute reality. It is at the beginning that we can hope to find the alternative.
Because of the circumstances of my life I have been able to turn my own naïve attention towards one area of academic concern which has been particularly important in the 20th century: the study of language and other sign systems. Whatever their other achievements, the disciplines of linguistics and semiotics and the philosophy of language have brought forward the fundamental importance of language for the human character and condition. If language is important, it follows that the study of language - and of linguistics and semiotics - is a good place to begin an investigation of patriarchal thinking.
Communication by means of language is now considered by academics to be a separate and independent rule-governed activity. Some linguists believe that the fact that all human communities use language is evidence that language is transmitted for the most part not culturally but genetically. Syntactic rules and sometimes even elements of vocabulary appear to be part of the hardware handed down from generation to generation. It seems to me that such genetic endowments would predetermine our linguistic behavior in a "Biology is destiny" sort of way. In this language would appear similar to gender, the characteristics of which were for centuries culturally considered to be biologically transmitted and therefore unchangeable and unchallengeable especially by the "genetically inferior" gender.
Making language a gift given by our DNA, not a cultural inheritance, locates it in an area which is beyond human intervention. If we believe instead that language is a social endowment which must be learned by flexible young mind-body complexes in the making, our idea of the human character varies accordingly. What is learned can be subjected to collective revision; its mechanisms can be investigated; alternatives are possible.
Strange as they seem to my naive view, considerations such as the genetic transmission of language are taken seriously and have far-reaching ripple-effects for other disciplines. An environment is created in which some ideas fit together and thrive because they are validated as permissible and respectable while their alternatives are discredited. The so called "free market" of ideas, like the economic free market, often promotes the benefit of a (genetically superior?) few while appearing to be good for everyone.
Whenever we are talking about the human condition we should subject our own discourse to at least two tests:
Criticism of ideology has shown that whole systems of thought have served the dominance of some groups over others. Every academic discipline should be suspect. Systems of ideas which we have been taught as the truth back up the political and economic systems of which they are a part. Fortunately I have been outside the academic world and not dependent upon it for my material well being. Thus I have been able to remain naïve. I desire radical social change: as a mother I want my children and the children of all mothers to receive a healthy and sane future, free from the collective psychosis of patriarchy. Contributing effectively to this future is my psychological reward.
I realise that my views of value and language constitute a drastic departure from traditional (patriarchal) philosophy, economics and linguistics. However I believe that an account of value and language in the light of giftgiving is necessary in order to reveal the hidden links beneath our divided disciplines so that we can see more clearly what we are doing and how to stop.
I hope to show that there is a feminist explanation for language and that much of our thinking can be reframed as deriving from a woman-based practice. There is an entirely different paradigm which exists and is accessible beneath the abstractions of linguistics and semiotics. Feminists who have been rightly distressed by the male dominance of language have sometimes chosen to speak and write "poetically" as an alternative. They have even sometimes chosen to remain silent in order to subtract themselves from patriarchal discourse. I suggest that by finding and consciously embracing the hidden paradigm we can begin to liberate both language and social practice from patriarchal control.
In spite of endless discussions philosophers have not been able to answer the question "How are words 'hooked' onto the world"? This question is the end of a thread which is bound up in the tangle of patriarchal philosophy - a good place to begin a naïve investigation. All the answers that have been given to this question have been influenced by the patriarchal stances of the mostly male philosophers who were doing the thinking. Their points of view grew up in denial of a women's model, and have served to support patriarchal hierarchies throughout the centuries. I do not want to try to refute current or past theories of language one by one, which would make this book an endless academic undertaking, conducted on the territory of those I want to challenge. I will simply propose an alternative theory.
Let me identify some questions that need to be answered. We need to know how words, phrases, discourses "mean". How are they related to each other and to the world? What is the significance of language for the nature of human beings as individuals and as a species? Why is it important for us to know this? Since language has been considered to play an important role in making us human, answering these questions in terms of an abstract system causes us to attribute our humanity to our capacity for abstract thought, with the consequence that those of us who are best at abstract thinking appear to be somehow more human than the others.
Women have been stereotypically assigned the province of "emotion" while men have appropriated the area of "reason". If we see language as an abstract system and as having the capacity to make us human, men's "superiority" would seem to be justified by their presumed capacity for abstraction. Theories of language back up theories or at least popular conceptions, of gender.
At another level of complication, considering syntax as a collection of rules imputes the rule-governed character to the human being as well. Thus it validates our systems of laws, making them seem natural because they are also collections of rules and require rule-governed activity. What happens in academia regarding language can have far reaching effects on the rest of the world. Academic economic theories also have important effects on the way goods are produced and distributed everywhere. Even when the effects are not direct, the assumptions underlying these disciplines influence individual and group behaviour in many areas of life.
Changing the assumptions would have a far-reaching ripple effect. They form the motivation and backup rationale for policies and behaviours in much the same way that the existence of the military industrial complex forms the motivation and backup for US foreign policy.
Co-creation of Patriarchy
It has become commonplace in the US "New Age" movement, to talk about the co-creation of "reality". It is said that by our thoughts we cause certain things to occur and others not to occur. I hope to be able to show how we are collectively creating a patriarchal reality which is actually biopathic (harmful to life) and I propose that we dismantle that reality. Our values, and the self-fulfilling interpretations of life that we make because of them, are creating a harmful illusion which leads us to act and to organise society in harmful ways. This is one sense in which our thoughts do make things happen. If we understand what we are doing however, patriarchal reality can be changed. First, we must have the courage to change basic assumptions which serve as failsafes to keep deep systemic changes from occurring.
Although male domination exists in many or perhaps most cultures, it is towards the domination of the white male that I want to direct my attention. In fact I believe that many patterns of domination and submission have come together to create a pattern of domination for that group at all levels. By this I do not mean that every white male dominates or that only white males dominate, but that the patterns of sex, race, and class fit together effectively to allow white males to dominate in many different areas of life. The patterns of domination propagate themselves and the values upon which they are based.
The history of Europe, the rise of capitalism and technology, the slaughter of the witches, the invasion of the Americas and the genocide of indigenous peoples, the slavery of Africans, the Nazi holocaust, are all extreme moments of a culture in which sex, race, and class work together like a giant mechanism to overprivilege some and underprivilege many others. Unfortunately this mechanism often sets the standard and validates similar behaviour in other cultures. Dictators throughout the world climb the stairs erected before them by their European brothers, perpetrating horrors.
At present white males are still the most successful purveyors of patriarchy. Through mechanisms such as the "free market" they continue to dominate the global economy. It is therefore the responsibility of their caregivers, especially of white women together with their allies among women and men of colour and among white men, to turn against patriarchy and dismantle it from within. We must all cease rewarding biopathic behaviours and systems. Women - and men - must stop nurturing patriarchy.
Capitalism has had advantages for many women, especially white women, in that it has allowed us to take on the structural position which had formerly been reserved for men. Becoming part of the work force and being educated for positions of authority has allowed many women to acquire the voice, the ability to speak out, and to define situations, which had been very difficult for women who only had access to traditional family roles where males had all the authority. Many women are using their freedom to speak against the system which "liberated" them, regarding its many defects which weigh upon them personally through low wages, lack of child care, and the continued privileging of males. They also condemn its exploitation of their sisters and their sisters' children in the so called "Third World" here and abroad, its enormous waste of resources through the arms business and war, and its endemic devastation of the environment.
I think that all women in capitalism are in a particularly good position to see through its apparent advantages, because they are still being educated to bring up children at the same time that they are being encouraged to climb the economic ladder. The contradictions involved in the values which accompany these two mandates draw our attention to the deep contradictions in the system itself.
Therapies and drugs of various kinds tend to try to make us "adjust" by concentrating on ourselves as the cause of our discomfort. However many feminists are turning outwards, against the biopathic system. We are not using the violent methods of the system but are looking for other ways to change it from within. I believe we have not yet succeeded because we do not realise that we have a common perspective and that the problems we are facing are systemic. By showing the links among different aspects of patriarchy, and by uncovering and asserting our common alternative values, women can begin to dismantle patriarchy, to recreate reality and to lead everyone back from the brink of disaster, to peace for all.
The Gift Paradigm
There is a fundamental paradigm with widespread and far reaching effects, which is not being noticed. It may seem strange in the time of space travel, computers and genetic engineering, that anything really important could be ignored. However, we may remember the idea of the "elephant in the living room" talked about by Alcoholics Anonymous. People who are in denial of someone's alcoholism do not mention it. In order to maintain the status quo, they turn their attention to other things. I believe there is a large part of life that is being denied and ignored. Unlike alcoholism, it is the healthy normal way of being, but we are indeed turning our attention away from it in order to maintain a false reality, the patriarchal status quo. I call this unseen part of life "the gift paradigm". It is a way of constructing and interpreting reality that derives from mothering and is therefore woman-based (at least as long as women are the ones who are doing most of the mothering).
The gift paradigm emphasises the importance of giving to satisfy needs. It is need oriented rather than profit oriented. Free giftgiving to needs, what in mothering we would call nurturing or caring work, is often not counted and may remain invisible in our society or seem uninformative because it is qualitatively rather than quantitatively based. However, giving to needs creates bonds between givers and receivers. Recognising someone's need and acting to satisfy it, convinces the giver of the existence of the other, while receiving something from someone else that satisfies a need proves the existence of the other to the receiver. Needs change and are modified by the ways they are satisfied, tastes develop, new needs arise. As they grow children need to become independent and mothers can also satisfy that need by refraining from satisfying the children's other needs.
Opposed to gift-giving is exchange - which is giving in order to receive. Here calculation and measurement are necessary and an equation must be established between the products. There is a logical movement which is ego-oriented rather than other-oriented. The giver uses the satisfaction of the other's need as a means to the satisfaction of her own need. Ironically what we call economics is based on exchange, while giftgiving is relegated to the home - though the word "economics" itself originally meant "care of the household". In capitalism the exchange paradigm reigns unquestioned and is the mainstay of patriarchal reality.
Even many of those who wish to challenge capitalism envision only an economy without money - a barter economy - which is of course still based on exchange. I believe they misplace the dividing line between the paradigms, making money the responsible factor rather than exchange, so they cannot clearly see the alternative that giftgiving presents. Aiding the maintenance of the status quo and the exchange economy is a view of "human nature" as egotistical and competitive - qualities which are required and enhanced by capitalism. The qualities required and enhanced by mothering are other-orientation, kindness and creativity. Though they are necessary for bringing up young children these qualities are made difficult, even self-sacrificial, by the scarcity for the many which is often the consequence of the exchange economy. They are considered not "human nature", not part of "reality".
I believe that the gift paradigm is present everywhere in our lives though we have become used to not seeing it. Exchange, with its requirement for measurement is much more visible. However, even our greeting "How are you?" is a way of asking "What are your needs?" "Co-muni cation" is giving gifts (from the Latin mun-us - gift) together. It is how we form the co-muni ty. By satisfying the needs of the infants who are dependent upon them, mothers actually form the bodies of the people who are, and live together in, the community. They also care for and maintain the implements, houses and locations where the community interactions take place. We communicate with each other through our gifts of goods. Each gift carries with it something of the thought process and values of the giver and affirms the value of the receiver. In fact goods and services that are given free to satisfy needs give value to the receiver by implication.
Exchange on the other hand is self-reflecting. It requires attention to be concentrated on equivalence between the products, and the value that might have been given to the other person instead returns to the giver as the satisfaction of her own need. In exchange the satisfaction of the need of the other is only a means to the satisfaction of one's own need. When everyone is doing this, the co-munication that occurs is altered and only succeeds in creating a group of isolated, unbonded, independent egos, not a co-munity. In their isolation these egos tend to develop new artificial needs for nurturing and bonding and use domination to procure for themselves the sense of community and identity they lack, forcing others to nurture them. They use everything from personal violence to manipulation of abstract systems to achieve the satisfaction of their needs, satisfaction which they are no longer receiving from participating directly in the gift logic.
In fact we might look at our society as starving for free gifts and the bonds that are created by them. Our compassion is blocked and it appears that only by denying giving-and-receiving can we survive. Yet not giving is killing those who could give just as surely as not receiving is killing those who have the material needs. In order to maintain this aberrant situation laws have been established, and armed forces are paid to back them up. Huge amounts of money are spent nurturing the justice system, the government, the police and the military, thereby creating the scarcity which makes giftgiving difficult, and exchange a necessary survival mechanism. Abstract systems of laws and hierarchical organisations like the government and the military are delivery systems for gifts, taking them away from the needs of the many in the community and directing them towards the needs of special groups of exchangers who have been socialised with an ego hungry to have "more".
While we may be grateful to the exchangers (entrepreneurs) for creating jobs, we should realise that the jobs are ways of getting for the entrepreneur what Karl Marx called "surplus value" - a free gift of labour time given by the worker. In order to survive the worker also has to receive many free gifts from his or her nurturers. Gifts are distributed from the bottom up in the hierarchy, from the poor to the rich, from giftgivers to exchangers, while it looks as if the flow is going in the other direction. The interaction of exchange itself has seemed so natural as not to require investigation. However it is actually artificial, deriving from a misuse of co-munication. If we no longer consider exchange natural or one of the mainstays of reality, we can stop considering our participation in it as the criterion of our worth. In fact many women have believed that the purpose of our liberation was to allow us to participate more fully in society. In the US anyway this society is capitalist patriarchy. Women have felt discomfort in it because our values were different and at times this kept us from being successful. The answer to our problem is not to change ourselves to adapt to the bigger patriarchal picture but to change the bigger picture to adapt to women's values. This change requires asserting those values as more viable than the values of patriarchy. We must understand and deeply criticise patriarchy so that we can realise we already have the alternative in our hands.
Rather than attempting to achieve the respect of those who have succeeded in the system we need to stand our ground outside the system. Even re-spect has to do with looking again, evaluating and being equal to, which are criteria deriving from exchange, and are important only when caring is not already considered the norm.
As we shift our focus towards validating the gift paradigm and seeing the defects of the exchange paradigm, many things acquire a different appearance: patriarchal capitalism which seemed to be the source of our good, is revealed as a parasitic system, where those above are nurtured by the free gifts of their "hosts" below. Profit is a free gift given to the exchanger by the other participants in the market and those who nurture them. Scarcity is necessary for the functioning of the system of exchange not just an unfortunate result of human inadequacy and natural calamity.
The reason why philosophers do not usually see these kinds of connections is that they have been blinded to the nurturing side of life by their participation in the exchange paradigm and their discounting of the gift paradigm. Even women philosophers have had to get jobs in academia, learning to think like male academics and often repeating their ideas. As a philosopher's wife who was interested in philosophy I was struck by the numbers of thinkers who sat at their breakfast tables asking about the nature of reality and the accuracy of their perceptions, when those breakfast tables would have looked very different if their wives had not been tidying up. This made me believe that women's nurturing and maintenance had gone into the nature of reality in a very big way but was not being seen by philosophers. How about the accuracy of THOSE sense perceptions? And did their thought processes depend upon what the thinkers had eaten for breakfast? Eggs cooked by the wife? Too much sugar in the coffee? Did the coffee come from El Salvador, or its equivalent in other centuries? Who paid the philosopher's salary, with what money? It seemed to me that the philosphers' discussion of immediate experience was just a pipe dream in the midst of denial. It was the patriarchal ego reflecting itself unable to recognise its own dependence on the nurturing of others and its inability to see the world in terms of needs and their satisfaction.
In looking at the surface of language I question the psychological significance of terms used by philosophers and linguists, especially those having to do with giftgiving and need such as genetic "endowment", or popular economic terms like "haves" and "have nots". They are clues to patriarchal psycho-social hidden agendas. It would be interesting to look at anorexia as a refusal not only of food but of the value that would have been transmitted to the receiver through the reception of nurturing. Perhaps the anorexic takes on the exchange paradigm too profoundly or too soon. World-wide 18 billion dollars is spent on armaments every week, and this would be enough to feed all the hungry on earth for a year. Since this expenditure does not create any life sustaining products, it acts as a drain on the nurturing economy.
Source: for-giving.com this is an excerpt
For articles on poverty, social markets, superfluous children, isolation, modern mating difficulties, status, boasting, gender differences, patriarchy, capitalists, civility, groups,
racism, virtue, ethics, art, music, religion and crewing click the "Up" button below to take you to the Index page for this Social/Cultural section.