full transcript

From the Ted Talk by Alex Gendler: What is a gift economy?

Unscramble the Blue Letters

This holiday season, people around the world will give and receive pnsreets. You might even get a knitted sweater from an aunt. But what if instead of saying "thanks" before consigning it to the closet, the ptiloe response expected from you was to show up to her house in a week with a better gift? Or to vote for her in the town election? Or let her adopt your firstborn child? All of these things might not snoud so strange if you are involved in a gift economy. This phrase might seem crctdoioanrty. After all, isn't a gift given for free? But in a gift economy, gifts given without explicit conditions are used to foster a system of social ties and obligations. While the market economies we know are formed by rasohniteplis between the things being traded, a gift ecnomoy consists of the relationships between the people doing the trading. Gift economies have existed throughout human history. The first studies of the concept came from ahnosloortgpits Bronislaw Malinowski and Marcel Mauss who dcebirse the natives of the Trobriand islands making dangerous canoe journeys across miles of ocean to exchange shell nleccaeks and arm bdnas. The items traded through this process, known as the kula ring, have no practical use, but derive iamocntrpe from their original owners and crary an oaltiogbin to continue the enxchgae. Other gift economies may ivlonve useful items, such as the ptolctah feast of the Pacific Northwest, where cefihs compete for prestige by giving away livestock and blankets. We might say that instead of aumnaticclug material wealth, participants in a gift economy use it to accumulate social wealth. Though some itnansces of gift eneimoocs may rebemlse barter, the difference is that the oiiangrl gift is given without any preconditions or haggling. Instead, the social norm of rricetciopy obligates recipients to voluntarily return the favor. But the rules for how and when to do so vary between cuutrels, and the return on a gift can take many forms. A powerful chief giving livestock to a poor man may not expect goods in ruretn, but gains social peirtgse at the debtor's expense. And among the Toraja people of Indonesia, the status gneaid from gift ceremonies even determines land ownership. The key is to keep the gift cycle going, with someone always indebted to someone else. Repaying a gift immediately, or with something of exactly equal value, may be read as ending the social relationship. So, are gift economies exclusive to small-scale seieotics outside the industrialized world? Not quite. For one thing, even in these cultures, gift economies function alongside a market sysetm for other exchanges. And when we think about it, parts of our own societies work in similar ways. Communal spaces, such as Burning Man, operate as a mix of breatr and a gift economy, where selling things for money is strictly taboo. In art and technology, gift economies are emerging as an alternative to intellectual property where artists, musicians, and open-source developers distribute their creative works, not for financial profit, but to raise their scoail prfolie or etbsisalh their community role. And even potluck dinners and holiday gift traditions involve some degree of reciprocity and social nomrs. We might wonder if a gift is truly a gift if it comes with obligations or involves some social pay off. But this is missing the point. Our idea of a free gift without social obligations prevails only if we already think of everything in market terms. And in a commericalized wolrd, the idea of snertnhnietgg bndos through giving and reciprocity may not be such a bad thing, wherever you may live.

Open Cloze

This holiday season, people around the world will give and receive ________. You might even get a knitted sweater from an aunt. But what if instead of saying "thanks" before consigning it to the closet, the ______ response expected from you was to show up to her house in a week with a better gift? Or to vote for her in the town election? Or let her adopt your firstborn child? All of these things might not _____ so strange if you are involved in a gift economy. This phrase might seem _____________. After all, isn't a gift given for free? But in a gift economy, gifts given without explicit conditions are used to foster a system of social ties and obligations. While the market economies we know are formed by _____________ between the things being traded, a gift _______ consists of the relationships between the people doing the trading. Gift economies have existed throughout human history. The first studies of the concept came from _______________ Bronislaw Malinowski and Marcel Mauss who ________ the natives of the Trobriand islands making dangerous canoe journeys across miles of ocean to exchange shell _________ and arm _____. The items traded through this process, known as the kula ring, have no practical use, but derive __________ from their original owners and _____ an __________ to continue the ________. Other gift economies may _______ useful items, such as the ________ feast of the Pacific Northwest, where ______ compete for prestige by giving away livestock and blankets. We might say that instead of ____________ material wealth, participants in a gift economy use it to accumulate social wealth. Though some _________ of gift _________ may ________ barter, the difference is that the ________ gift is given without any preconditions or haggling. Instead, the social norm of ___________ obligates recipients to voluntarily return the favor. But the rules for how and when to do so vary between ________, and the return on a gift can take many forms. A powerful chief giving livestock to a poor man may not expect goods in ______, but gains social ________ at the debtor's expense. And among the Toraja people of Indonesia, the status ______ from gift ceremonies even determines land ownership. The key is to keep the gift cycle going, with someone always indebted to someone else. Repaying a gift immediately, or with something of exactly equal value, may be read as ending the social relationship. So, are gift economies exclusive to small-scale _________ outside the industrialized world? Not quite. For one thing, even in these cultures, gift economies function alongside a market ______ for other exchanges. And when we think about it, parts of our own societies work in similar ways. Communal spaces, such as Burning Man, operate as a mix of ______ and a gift economy, where selling things for money is strictly taboo. In art and technology, gift economies are emerging as an alternative to intellectual property where artists, musicians, and open-source developers distribute their creative works, not for financial profit, but to raise their ______ _______ or _________ their community role. And even potluck dinners and holiday gift traditions involve some degree of reciprocity and social _____. We might wonder if a gift is truly a gift if it comes with obligations or involves some social pay off. But this is missing the point. Our idea of a free gift without social obligations prevails only if we already think of everything in market terms. And in a commericalized _____, the idea of _____________ _____ through giving and reciprocity may not be such a bad thing, wherever you may live.

Solution

  1. resemble
  2. polite
  3. prestige
  4. norms
  5. system
  6. obligation
  7. exchange
  8. relationships
  9. world
  10. cultures
  11. involve
  12. social
  13. bonds
  14. societies
  15. importance
  16. original
  17. contradictory
  18. instances
  19. economy
  20. necklaces
  21. establish
  22. anthropologists
  23. bands
  24. presents
  25. strengthening
  26. describe
  27. economies
  28. profile
  29. barter
  30. chiefs
  31. carry
  32. potlatch
  33. gained
  34. return
  35. accumulating
  36. sound
  37. reciprocity

Original Text

This holiday season, people around the world will give and receive presents. You might even get a knitted sweater from an aunt. But what if instead of saying "thanks" before consigning it to the closet, the polite response expected from you was to show up to her house in a week with a better gift? Or to vote for her in the town election? Or let her adopt your firstborn child? All of these things might not sound so strange if you are involved in a gift economy. This phrase might seem contradictory. After all, isn't a gift given for free? But in a gift economy, gifts given without explicit conditions are used to foster a system of social ties and obligations. While the market economies we know are formed by relationships between the things being traded, a gift economy consists of the relationships between the people doing the trading. Gift economies have existed throughout human history. The first studies of the concept came from anthropologists Bronislaw Malinowski and Marcel Mauss who describe the natives of the Trobriand islands making dangerous canoe journeys across miles of ocean to exchange shell necklaces and arm bands. The items traded through this process, known as the kula ring, have no practical use, but derive importance from their original owners and carry an obligation to continue the exchange. Other gift economies may involve useful items, such as the potlatch feast of the Pacific Northwest, where chiefs compete for prestige by giving away livestock and blankets. We might say that instead of accumulating material wealth, participants in a gift economy use it to accumulate social wealth. Though some instances of gift economies may resemble barter, the difference is that the original gift is given without any preconditions or haggling. Instead, the social norm of reciprocity obligates recipients to voluntarily return the favor. But the rules for how and when to do so vary between cultures, and the return on a gift can take many forms. A powerful chief giving livestock to a poor man may not expect goods in return, but gains social prestige at the debtor's expense. And among the Toraja people of Indonesia, the status gained from gift ceremonies even determines land ownership. The key is to keep the gift cycle going, with someone always indebted to someone else. Repaying a gift immediately, or with something of exactly equal value, may be read as ending the social relationship. So, are gift economies exclusive to small-scale societies outside the industrialized world? Not quite. For one thing, even in these cultures, gift economies function alongside a market system for other exchanges. And when we think about it, parts of our own societies work in similar ways. Communal spaces, such as Burning Man, operate as a mix of barter and a gift economy, where selling things for money is strictly taboo. In art and technology, gift economies are emerging as an alternative to intellectual property where artists, musicians, and open-source developers distribute their creative works, not for financial profit, but to raise their social profile or establish their community role. And even potluck dinners and holiday gift traditions involve some degree of reciprocity and social norms. We might wonder if a gift is truly a gift if it comes with obligations or involves some social pay off. But this is missing the point. Our idea of a free gift without social obligations prevails only if we already think of everything in market terms. And in a commericalized world, the idea of strengthening bonds through giving and reciprocity may not be such a bad thing, wherever you may live.

Frequently Occurring Word Combinations

ngrams of length 2

collocation frequency
gift economies 6
gift economy 3

Important Words

  1. accumulate
  2. accumulating
  3. adopt
  4. alternative
  5. anthropologists
  6. arm
  7. art
  8. artists
  9. aunt
  10. bad
  11. bands
  12. barter
  13. blankets
  14. bonds
  15. bronislaw
  16. burning
  17. canoe
  18. carry
  19. ceremonies
  20. chief
  21. chiefs
  22. child
  23. closet
  24. commericalized
  25. communal
  26. community
  27. compete
  28. concept
  29. conditions
  30. consigning
  31. consists
  32. continue
  33. contradictory
  34. creative
  35. cultures
  36. cycle
  37. dangerous
  38. degree
  39. derive
  40. describe
  41. determines
  42. developers
  43. difference
  44. dinners
  45. distribute
  46. economies
  47. economy
  48. election
  49. emerging
  50. equal
  51. establish
  52. exchange
  53. exchanges
  54. exclusive
  55. existed
  56. expect
  57. expected
  58. expense
  59. explicit
  60. favor
  61. feast
  62. financial
  63. firstborn
  64. formed
  65. forms
  66. foster
  67. free
  68. function
  69. gained
  70. gains
  71. gift
  72. gifts
  73. give
  74. giving
  75. goods
  76. haggling
  77. history
  78. holiday
  79. house
  80. human
  81. idea
  82. immediately
  83. importance
  84. indebted
  85. indonesia
  86. industrialized
  87. instances
  88. intellectual
  89. involve
  90. involved
  91. involves
  92. islands
  93. items
  94. journeys
  95. key
  96. knitted
  97. kula
  98. land
  99. live
  100. livestock
  101. making
  102. malinowski
  103. man
  104. marcel
  105. market
  106. material
  107. mauss
  108. miles
  109. missing
  110. mix
  111. money
  112. musicians
  113. natives
  114. necklaces
  115. norm
  116. norms
  117. northwest
  118. obligates
  119. obligation
  120. obligations
  121. ocean
  122. operate
  123. original
  124. owners
  125. ownership
  126. pacific
  127. participants
  128. parts
  129. pay
  130. people
  131. phrase
  132. point
  133. polite
  134. poor
  135. potlatch
  136. potluck
  137. powerful
  138. practical
  139. preconditions
  140. presents
  141. prestige
  142. prevails
  143. process
  144. profile
  145. profit
  146. property
  147. raise
  148. read
  149. receive
  150. recipients
  151. reciprocity
  152. relationship
  153. relationships
  154. repaying
  155. resemble
  156. response
  157. return
  158. ring
  159. role
  160. rules
  161. season
  162. selling
  163. shell
  164. show
  165. similar
  166. social
  167. societies
  168. sound
  169. spaces
  170. status
  171. strange
  172. strengthening
  173. strictly
  174. studies
  175. sweater
  176. system
  177. taboo
  178. technology
  179. terms
  180. ties
  181. toraja
  182. town
  183. traded
  184. trading
  185. traditions
  186. trobriand
  187. vary
  188. voluntarily
  189. vote
  190. ways
  191. wealth
  192. week
  193. work
  194. works
  195. world