an exchange about the interconnections between commerce and spirituality.

Monday, March 2, 2009

True Commerce and Gift Economies

"True Commerce," is a phrase I coined which connotes the idea of value accruing via exchange that replenishes rather than depletes the commonwealth. We must conserve and expend, both. Every conversation I have these days is the same. Whether people enter in through the political, the spiritual, the environmental, we all know, some subliminally, others more consciously that it can’t go on like this--finitude of resources coupled with a paucity of integrity.

There are many examples from indigenous society of an alternate commerce. In his book, "The Gift; Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property," Lewis Hyde references the Trobriand Island culture whose primary currency is denoted by shell bracelets. These bracelets are passed from household to household forming a gift economy where status depends on fluency of exchange. The bracelets' value increase in proportion to how often they are given away; the frequency of giving determines net worth.

Not surprisingly, the Internet has spawned the propagation of modern gift economies where, indeed, the "erotic" (as defined by a mediating principle of exchange) life of property becomes available via connection as opposed to commodification. The commons of the commonwealth begin to determine market force, and corporate control must bend or lose; the music industry being a prominent case in point.

Another example stemming from a mythic source: our word "money" comes from the Roman Goddess, Moneta. All coinage was minted in her temple thus making explicit the symbolic denotation of money. The Empire's money literally sprang from her loins, not accidentally as a female deity would best incarnate the feminine principle whereby prosperity is sanctioned through relatedness not accumulation. Hence, money's latent energy is released only when "spent"!

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