The exchange value of the gift

Nature, with its expressive simplicity, has taught us that exchanges occur as a function of a potential difference between the giver and the acceptor. In more general terms, we might speak of a generic “difference” by which consequential and propitious conditions are established for which an object of exchange becomes eligible for transit from an entity that possesses it to an entity that receives it.

Equality, then, does not “(s-)change” since it is ipso facto assimilated to a state of equilibrium where, precisely, all inter-acting forces are balanced to determine an absence of need for any exchange.

Instead, economics has taught us that this difference in potential is directly proportional to a super partes mediator that has commonly been referred to as “value”: the greater the difference, the greater the value of the exchange and, consequently, the greater the point value of the object of exchange.

A condition, the latter, which, in an implicit and somewhat “intrusive” way, associates every possible good with a “value tag” that, given the total equivalence (due to the neutrality of the number) of the values themselves, effectively makes goods with the same tag, equivalent goods or, to keep with the same terminology used so far, iso-exchangeable goods.

Person who gives a gift. The exchange value of the gift is inherent in its inherent gratuitousness
The exchange value of the gift is inherent in its inherent gratuitousness.

Such an entirely “unnatural” reality becomes, for the sake of convenience and symbolic oversimplification, the instrument for detecting favorable or unfavorable conditions for trade. Even so, an important question remains: How are exchanges regulated when only the first part of the transaction, i.e., gifts, is put in place?

The answer, far from simple, can be slowly re-composed by starting from the origin of that (sym-)bolic union (from sym-bàllein) that put together entity A with entity B as a function of a “local” (thus by no means universal) signifier. Under such conditions, the giver and acceptor transformed each transaction into the union of two fragments of the same original “shard” and, from this, determined the symbolic valence that authorized (in the case of coincidence) or discouraged (in the case of difference) the exchange.

The gift, as a particular case of symbolic exchange, is by no means a transaction devoid of return “value” since this, even if seemingly contradicted by the “reality of the facts,” would imply a one-sided impoverishment without any possibility of recovery.

In contrast, giving “freely” defines a (ex-)change in which the signifier that “authorizes” the (trans-)action (which is always trans- because the self-referential is iso-potential) is based on a return at the emotional, existential, finalistic level that, in the recipient’s smile, induced (well-)being, and even in the reduction of “negative” potential that allows him or her to “approximate” his or her value to that of many other subjects, finds the reward that makes the exchange worthwhile and “fulfilling.”

Giving, as recent studies have shown, even produces brain feedback comparable to that induced by the arousal of receiving a gift or a powerful emotion (such as a state of orgasm), and this can only neuro-scientifically confirm that the illusion of the gift without return is merely a ploy to selfishly emphasize the act of giving away to an entity that presents a character of poverty.

Is it not true, after all, that the most “real” almsgiving is that which is given entirely anonymously? The truth of this “simple” human condition finds full confirmation in the communal satisfaction that does not lag (as the return value of the exchange) through the acquisition of awareness of the increased well-being of those who (a-subjectified) received what was given.

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