Updated: Feb 1
“We settled ever more firmly into the mystery of natural abundance: resources, when shared based on need, tend to regenerate.” Miki Kashtan
The purpose of this article is to support the call for a very different day-to-day relationship with money, value, and needs. The argument is relatively straightforward: We must reclaim the simple relationship between available resources and needs.
This involves dismantling concepts of “deserve,” “earn,” and “owe” which are so deeply lodged in the psyche of modernity. Consider, so many in the world don’t have enough for their basic needs whilst some have much much more than they need. Within the context of the global capitalist logic, this disproportionate access to resources is enabled by a culturally legitimised separation of resources from needs. Instead, resources are allocated on the basis of these concepts (which generally reinforce pre-existing access to money and certain forms of power). In other words, how we think about money perpetuates inequality and injustice.
“Ever since patriarchy, and especially capitalism, we’ve lived in the horror of no longer being able to receive, without exchange or debt, just because we have a need. We only experience it, and only partially and imperfectly, early in life. This is what I am committed to restoring: a flow from where resources exist to where they are needed, based on wholehearted willingness. I want all of us to be part of this web.”
We are so immersed in these concepts of an exchange and accumulation economy, that many of us find it difficult to even imagine what a gift economy means or how it functions. As Miki Kashtan writes, “a gift economy fundamentally means that giving and receiving are fully uncoupled: giving is based on availability of resources given with generosity and willingness, and receiving is based on the presence of a need.”
What is especially important here is ‘willingness’ as an internal measure, rather than notions of ‘ability’ or ‘fairness’ which invite external measures and thus, by necessity, an implicit external authority that will decide. In this sense, gift vs. exchange exist on a spectrum rather than a binary and static distinction. What matters is the orientation and direction of ‘uncoupling giving from receiving’, as well as prioritising relationship (rather than transaction) and care (rather than obligation).
A gift economy invites people who care about each other to discover new frontiers to express this more fully whilst dismantling systems of domination and exploitation. It strengthens community relationships whilst simultaneously disrupting so much that is familiar (and familiarly harmful) and moving closer to a world of mutual care and reciprocity.
This article is a summary of Miki Kashtan’s ‘Matching Resources to Needs: Learning to Receive through Participating in “Money Piles”’ article (which you can read in full here). Also acknowledging the ‘Financial Co-responsibility’ process created by Dominic Barter which has inspired so much of this work and new approach to money.