(Essay) The Disease of Patriarchal Capitalism by Genevieve Vaughan

Genevieve Vaughan

Genevieve Vaughan

Women’s Worlds, Ottawa, July 6, 2011

We European/Americans have been infected by the disease of patriarchal capitalism and we have carried it to all the populations where we have settled. For many of them it has been fatal, others have adapted but some have succeeded in defending themselves and their traditions against all odds.

This disease hurts us as well as everyone else. It is the cause of wars and oppresssions of all kinds. It magnifies racism, ageism, nationalism, religious prejudice. Let me try to say what I think it is. Continue reading

(Essay) The Gift Economy by Genevieve Vaughan

Gen VaughanTwo basic economic paradigms coexist in the world today. They are logically contradictory, but also complementary. One is visible, the other invisible; one highly valued, the other undervalued. One is connected with men; the other with women. What we need to do is validate the one connected with women, causing a basic shift in the values by which we direct our lives and policies.

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(Essay 2) Gift Giving and the Goddess, A philosophy for Social Change by Genevieve Vaughan

Mago AcademyMeet Mago Contributor, Genevieve Vaughan.

Abstract reasoning has been influenced by exchange. It is not a sui generis activity but only a complication of giftgiving and language, which has left aside or cancelled the other oriented content in order to contend with cause and effect, quantification, self reflecting consciousness and supposedly value-free (not value- giving) ‘activity’. By abstracting from giftgiving we prepare ourselves for exchange. We eliminate meaningful human relations and bonding based on giving, and separate reason from the emotions which respond to needs. Our emotional responses create the map that tells us where and what gifts to give. Basing reason as we do on the equations and categories of exchange while discrediting emotions, we find our lives are no longer ‘meaningful’. That is because meaning – in life as in language – is formed by gift giving communication. We also forget that the truth is other oriented, that it satisfies the other’s need to know, while lying is constructed according to the model of exchange, satisfying only the speakers’ own need. Our lack of honesty is also a lack of altruism and gift giving is defeated once more.

Many aspects of our lives are informed by the paradigm of exchange without our realizing it. For example, justice is constructed upon the exchange model. We quantify wrong doing and impose a payment. The feeling of guilt is a kind of personal readiness to pay. We need kindness instead, for-giveness and a concentration on the needs of all the parties involved. Profit, in Marx’s sense of surplus value, is an unpaid portion of the workers’ labor, which may be considered as a leveraged gift. The system of exchange depends upon this gift for its motivation and on the many free gifts that are given to it by women’s (and some men’s) nurturing work, the sometimes laborious activity of shopping, of child care and elder care, the ‘reproduction’ of the work force. Slavery of one kind or another throughout history has provided the forced unpaid ‘extra’ that was necessary for the growth of ‘just’ and equal exchange. Presently the cheap labor and natural resources of third world countries provide a flow of gifts to the market economies of the North.

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(Essay 1) Gift Giving and the Goddess, A philosophy for Social Change by Genevieve Vaughan

Meet Mago Contributor, Genevieve Vaughan.

Mago AcademyThe society in which we are living, let’s call it ‘capitalist patriarchy’ for lack of a better term, creates a perspective, a pair of eyeglasses given to us in childhood, through which we learn to look at and interpret the world. These glasses create a selective vision, foregrounding some kinds of things and backgrounding others. Some kinds of things become invisible altogether. It is the privilege and the responsibility of all those who believe in the Godess(es), in magic, and in the immanence of a better world, to take those glasses off and re focus. There is another point of view that we already engage in even without knowing it because we are trained to discount it or to interpret its messages as something else. That is the point of view of the gift paradigm.

In the early sixties I married an Italian philosophy professor and moved to Italy from Texas. Because he had studied the philosophy of language at Oxford my husband was asked to collaborate with a group of Italian professors who were starting a journal based on applying Marx’s analysis of the commodity and money to language. I went with him to the meetings. I was in my early twenties at the time and was completely bowled over by the ideas the group was discussing. I had one of those moments of enlightenment in which it seems you can understand everything. I also thought: If this means so much to me, a fairly normal girl from Texas, other people would probably have a similar reaction. Well, the years passed. The journal did not happen after all though my husband did write books dealing with the subject during the several years we were married. His approach was to look at language as exchange. Somehow that did not totally convince me. It did not accord with my original vision. Besides I was deep in mothering our three daughters and I felt that exchange was a very minimal part of that experience. In fact exchange is giving-in-order-to-receive. You have to satisfy little childrens’ needs unilaterally. They cannot exchange with you. As they get older you can of course engage in manipulation but that usually ends up hurting both the children and yourself. I knew that language was older than exchange, certainly older than exchange for money. Children also learned language before they learned exchange. Continue reading

Meet Mago Contributor, Genevieve Vaughan

Gen VaughanGenevieve Vaughan (b. Texas 1939) has been working on the idea of a maternal gift economy and culture for more than 40 years. She created the international, multicultural all-women activist Foundation for a Compassionate Society based in Austin, Texas (1987-2005), one continuing project of which is the Temple of the Goddess Sekhmet in Cactus Springs, Nevada, (1992-present). She also initiated a network: International Feminists for a Gift Economy (2001- present).  Her books: For-Giving, a Feminist Criticism of Exchange (1997), Homo Donans, (2006), and two anthologies: Il Dono, the Gift: a Feminist Perspective (2004) and Women and the Gift Economy, a Radically Different Worldview is Possible (2008)and much other material can be downloaded free from her website: http://www.gift-economy.com. She is presently working on a book about gift giving in language.

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