Primitive Communism: A mutual exchange of gifts

Primitive Communism: A mutual exchange of gifts

The mutual exchange of gifts between individuals and groups represents the heart of archaic economic activity. When food was available everybody had food; the hunter, who returned with food, distributed it among the rest of the community. If someone had something someone else wanted, it was given to them. This represents the core of primitive communism.

The common attitude in modern sapiens regarding income might well be expressed as “I’ve upped my income, now up yours”. Such was not the case in early times. The process of freely giving and freely receiving of gifts was embedded in an important cosmological perception.

Primitive human life had a perception that wo/man owed a great debt to invisible powers. These early humans were conscious of the need for a vigorously maintained balance sheet. Primitives recognized man’s essential relation to nature. Nature gives freely of her bounty to humans and humans were beholden and grateful. They demonstrated this essential truth with fellow human creatures, with nature, and with the invisible world of the dead and the gods.

“In the archaic consciousness the sense of indebtedness exists together with the illusion that the debt is payable; the gods exist to make the debt payable. Hence the archaic economy is embedded in religion, limited by the framework, and mitigated by the consolation of religion—above all, removal of indebtedness and guilt.”—Van der Leeuw

Why can humans neither now nor long ago, be comfortable and satisfied with a bountiful nature, which can easily supply all our needs? We cannot because both primitive and modern men and women require an economic surplus; the surplus is necessary so that s/he can have something to give to the gods.

The ceremonial destruction of mountains of food was a religious act. It was an attempt to keep “the cycle of power moving between the invisible to the visible world”. Could this same motive explain our modern inclination for war?

Quotes from “Escape from Evil”—Ernest Becker

Questions for discussion

Why can humans neither now nor long ago, be comfortable and satisfied with a bountiful nature, which can easily supply all our needs?

The ceremonial destruction of mountains of food was a religious act. It was an attempt to keep “the cycle of power moving between the invisible to the visible world”. Could this same motive explain our modern inclination for war?

First off, by seperating humans from nature you have created an ‘other’ which needs to be overcome. In order to overcome this other, society needs to become more streamlined to ensure victory. By streamlining society, a division of labour is created and from that the ego emerges and with it many more ‘others’, indeed, so much so that in our modern societies nearly everything is considered to be ‘other’, to be ‘non-self’.

By recognizing that difference, and taking ourselves out of the natural equation the whole we create division which further fuels other divisions:

–Zhuangzi (2/52-54).

So by producing those distinctions the stage is set for chaos and disharmony.

As for our modern inclination to war, I think that it has more to do with the concepts of ‘mine’ and ‘more’. We are driven in many ways by both jealousy (guarding what is ours) and envy (desiring that which is not), which leads to conflict and war. I think the destruction of mountains of food was simply a ritualized form of selfishness, where people were taught to be selfish within the confines of the group and with the group in mind. A society of individuals collapses, but people acting selfishly for the group? Now that is how you get ahead in this rat race!

As the population grows, so do the dead beats who wont participate by pooling their services and goods, thus the burden increases on those who will. Along with this type are the selfish type that simply want more then what they need, either way its selfishness that ruins all the best laid plans.

BTW, why do you keep saying wo/man, “him” is universally accepted as both male and female in modern writing from my understanding.

I think Schopenhauer got the answer to that one. Even though we have bounty, we still have to keep feeding the furnace (what he called “the will”). The problem isn’t having enough to eat, it’s having to constantly engage in the act of feeding.

The “Nature’s Bounty” you’re talking about wouldn’t have provided the computer you used to type your post. The intelligence of individual persons did that. Nature provides the raw materials, but if we still relied on nature’s bounty we’d all still be living in caves and having to hunt just to feed ourselves.

The reason I say wo/man is to bring to everyones attention that we too easily accept male supremacy. We need some new pronouns that reflect an attempt to provide to women the equality they deserve.

Thats fine, as long as you don’t expect anyone else to do it.

Different strokes for different folks.