Gifts Bespeak Relationships

By Kristopher A. Nelson
in March 2007

200 words / 1 min.
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One of the specific narrative methods of establishing community, of creating and maintaining shared world-views, is gift exchange. In contrast to the exchange of commodities, the exchange of gifts establishes enduring connections between people. It is the cardinal difference between gift and commodity exchange that a gift establishes a feeling-bond between two people, while the […]


Note: this post is from 2007. Evaluate with care and in light of later events.

One of the specific narrative methods of establishing community, of creating and maintaining shared world-views, is gift exchange. In contrast to the exchange of commodities, the exchange of gifts establishes enduring connections between people.

It is the cardinal difference between gift and commodity exchange that a gift establishes a feeling-bond between two people, while the sale of a commodity leaves no necessary connection.

— Lewis Hyde, p. 56

A gift, then, presented and represented within a narrative framework, works to establish a community within which more gifts are given and more narratives (re)constructed. It is this very circularity — for the “gift not only moves, it moves in a circle” (Lewis Hyde, p. 11) — of enduring gift relationships which serves so well to generate and maintain community.

See: But that Speaking Makes it So.