Track: Inner Ecology, Collective Psyche and Social Transformation
A Maternal Gift Economy as the Way to Personal and Planetary Peace
Only recently has the early mother-child relation been the focus of infancy research that envisions the newborn as a highly sensitive social being (Trevarthen) and of interpersonal neurobiology that conceives of the mother as regulating the child’s emotions through right brain to right brain interactions. (Schore). These studies provide a window into the pre linguistic world of the child, which, I contend, takes place in a gift economy, when the child’s needs are unilaterally satisfied by (m)others. The processes of giving and receiving set up a basic transitive logical schema that underlies communication and continues to function as an epistemological scaffold and lens for perception, language and even syntax. The gift schema continues also in the economies of hunter-gatherers (Narvaez), in matriarchal societies (Goettner-Abendroth ) and in present day ‘domestic sphere’. Giving and receiving without commercial exchange is also the Way of Nature. The market economy contradicts this gift schema with an antithetical logic of quid pro quo to which the growing child has to adapt. Although the gift schema continues throughout adult life, the schema of exchange hides and travesties it, stimulating the plunder of gifts. This creates masses of impoverished people and tiny numbers of extremely wealthy ones as well as a personal internal division between an identity as part of homo donans, the mammalian mothering species, and an identity as homo economicus, a mother-denying artificial species that functions in the mode of every man for himself. The internal division is often misread as a moral issue but it is a systemic problem requiring systemic change. In order for humanity to function at a higher level the logic of exchange must diminish and the logic of the gift prevail.
Only by freeing ourselves from the dominance of the exchange economy can we have access to the peaceful planet and the higher states of consciousness that are our human destiny and birthright.
Genevieve Vaughan (b. Texas 1939) is an independent researcher who lives between Italy and the USA. She has studied and attempted to practice the gift economy for many decades. She created the international feminist activist Foundation for a Compassionate Society (1987-2005) based in Austin, Texas, which offered many woman-led projects to the public free of charge. In 1992, she founded the ongoing Temple of Goddess Spirituality dedicated to Sekhmet, near the nuclear test site in the Nevada desert. In 2001,she initiated a network: International Feminists for a Gift Economy. Her books, many of which are translated into several languages, are For-Giving, a Feminist Criticism of Exchange (1997) homo donans (2006), The Gift in the Heart of Language: the Maternal Source of Meaning (2015) and three anthologies Il Dono/the Gift: a Feminist Analysis (2004), Women and the Gift Economy: a Radically Different Worldview is Possible(2007) and The Maternal Roots of the Gift Economy (2017). Many of her articles and other material including videos of conferences and a film on her life Giving for Giving, are available free at www.gift-economy.com.