Revert to Gift Economic System

Contrary to popular conception, there is no evidence that societies relied primarily on barter before using money for trade. Instead, non-monetary societies operated largely along the principles of gift economics. When barter did in fact occur, it was usually between either complete strangers or would-be enemies.

The anthropologist Marshall Sahlins writes that Stone Age gift economies were, as evidenced by their nature as gift economies, economies of abundance, not scarcity, despite modern readers’ typical assumption of abject poverty.

Whilst Jonathan Dawson, head of economics at Schumacher College, writes that from an anthropological perspective, “economy and society are inseparable and that markets and money are relatively recent arrivals, a thin veneer layered onto a much older history of co-operation, gift and reciprocity.” 

Territorial conquests and colonization by alien military powers, saw Gift Economies being replaced by market economies based on commodity money. The period is marked by the emergence of city states and the rise of great empires in China, India and the Mediterranean, but was, in a way, connected with the advent of large-scale slavery and the use of coins to pay soldiers, together with the obligation enforced by the State for its subjects to pay its taxes in currency.

This was also the same time that the great religions spread out and the general questions of philosophical enquiry emerged on world history – many of those directly related, as in Plato’s Republic, with the nature of debt and its relation to ethics.


Tzedakah to Jews is similar to Sadaqah to Muslims

Tzedakah [tsedaˈka] or Ṣ’daqah [sˤəðaːˈqaː] in Classical Hebrew (Hebrew: צדקה‎; Arabic: صدقة‎), is a Hebrew word literally meaning righteousness but commonly used to signify charity. It is based on the Hebrew word (צדק, Tzedek) meaning righteousness, fairness or justice, and it is related to the Hebrew word Tzadik meaning righteous as an adjective (or righteous individual as a noun in the form of a substantive).

Tzedakah refers to the religious obligation to do what is right and just. Unlike philanthropy or charity, which is completely voluntary, tzedakah is seen as a religious obligation.

Meanwhile, it is interesting to note that ‘Sadaqah’ is the term used in Al-Quran 9:60 to discuss these ‘fuqaraa’, ‘masakeen’, ‘amileen’, ‘muallaf’, ‘ar-riqaab’, ‘al-gharimeen’, ‘fi sabilillah’ and ‘abnis sabil’ issues which are apparently the subject matters of ‘Zakah’, a religious obligation of the Muslims.

Tzedakah/Sadaqah is Gift Economic System (opposed to Capitalist Economy)

In anthropology and the social sciences, a gift economy (or gift culture) is a mode of exchange where valuable goods and services are regularly given without any explicit agreement for immediate or future rewards (i.e. no formal quid pro quo exists). Ideally, voluntary and recurring gift exchange circulates and redistributes wealth throughout a community, and serves to build societal ties and obligations. In contrast to a barter economy or a market economy, social norms and custom governs gift exchange, rather than an explicit exchange of goods or services for money or some other commodity.

Traditional societies dominated by gift exchange were small in scale and geographically remote from each other. As states formed to regulate trade and commerce within their boundaries, market exchange came to dominate. Nonetheless, the practice of gift exchange revives and continues to play an important role in modern society. One prominent example is scientific research, which can be described as a Gift Economy.

The expansion of the Internet has witnessed a resurgence of the Gift Economy, especially in the technology sector. Engineers, scientists and software developers create open-source software projects. The Linux kernel and the GNU operating system are prototypical examples for the gift economy’s prominence in the technology sector and its active role in instating the use of permissive free software and copyleft licenses, which allow free reuse of software and knowledge. Other examples include: file-sharing, the commons, open access.

Pacific islanders

Pacific Island societies prior to the nineteenth century were dominated by gift exchange. Gift-exchange still endures in parts of the Pacific today; for example, in some outer islands of the Cook Islands. In Tokelau, despite the gradual appearance of a market economy, a form of gift economy remains through the practice of inati, the strictly egalitarian sharing of all food resources in each atoll. On Anuta as well, a gift economy called “Aropa” still exists.

There are also a significant number of diasporic Pacific Islander communities in New Zealand, Australia, and the United States that still practice a form of gift economy. Although they have become participants in those countries’ market economies, some seek to retain practices linked to an adapted form of gift economy, such as reciprocal gifts of money, or remittances back to their home community. The notion of reciprocal gifts is seen as essential to the fa’aSamoa (“Samoan way of life”), the anga fakatonga (“Tongan way of life”), and the culture of other diasporic Pacific communities.

Papua New Guinea

The Kula ring still exists to this day, as do other exchange systems in the region, such as Moka exchange in the Mt. Hagen area, on Papua New Guinea.

Native Americans

Native Americans who lived in the Pacific Northwest (primarily the Kwakiutl), practiced the potlatch ritual, where leaders give away large amounts of goods to their followers, strengthening group relations. By sacrificing accumulated wealth, a leader gained a position of honor.


In the Sierra Tarahumara of North Western Mexico, a custom exists called kórima. This custom says that it is one’s duty to share his wealth with anyone.


In place of a market, anarcho-communists, such as those who inhabited some Spanish villages in the 1930s, support a currency-less gift economy where goods and services are produced by workers and distributed in community stores where everyone (including the workers who produced them) is essentially entitled to consume whatever they want or need as payment for their production of goods and services.

Social Theories


For Lewis Hyde, the gift is an object that must continuously circulate throughout a society in order to keep its gift qualities. In this way the gift perishes for the person who gives it away, even though the gift itself is able to live on precisely because it has been passed on. He calls this the “paradox of the gift”: even though it is used up, it is not extinguished. This gift exchange is responsible for establishing connections and emotional ties between people which in turn serve as a basis for community and social cohesion.

Hyde pays particular attention to the gift associated with the creative process and art as a whole. The artistic gift is not acquired or purchased; it is bestowed, even somewhat mysteriously, upon the artist. He distinguishes between two types of artistic gifts: the inner gift and the outer gift. The inner gift of the artist is the inspiration and the actual creation of the work, while the outer gift refers to the finished work that is given to an audience.

Hyde also argues that there is a difference between a “true” gift given out of gratitude and a “false” gift given only out of obligation. In Hyde’s view, the “true” gift binds us in a way beyond any commodity transaction, but “we cannot really become bound to those who give us false gifts.”

Hyde also addresses the issue of the gift of art within a market dominated society. He argues that when a primarily gift-based economy is turned into a commodity-based economy, “the social fabric of the group is invariably destroyed.” Much as there are prohibitions against turning gifts into capital, there are prohibitions against treating gift exchange as barter. Among the Trobrianders, for example, treating Kula as barter is considered a disgrace.

Hyde writes that commercial goods can generally become gifts, but when gifts become commodities, the gift “…either stops being a gift or else abolishes the boundary… Contracts of the heart lie outside the law and the circle of gifts is narrowed, therefore, whenever such contracts are narrowed to legal relationships.” He concludes, however, that a market economy and a gift economy are not wholly irreconcilable if rationalization is introduced into the sphere of the gift and if spirituality and emotion are brought into the sphere of the market.


Many anarchists, particularly anarcho-primitivists and anarcho-communists, believe that variations on a gift economy may be the key to breaking the cycle of poverty. Therefore they often desire to refashion all of society into a gift economy. Anarcho-communists advocate a gift economy as an ideal, with neither money, nor markets, nor central planning. This view traces back at least to Peter Kropotkin, who saw in the hunter-gatherer tribes he had visited the paradigm of “mutual aid”.

Kropotkin argues that mutual benefit is a stronger incentive than mutual strife and is eventually more effective collectively in the long run to drive individuals to produce. The reason given is that a gift economy stresses the concept of increasing the other’s abilities and means of production, which would then (theoretically) increase the ability of the community to reciprocate to the giving individual.

Other solutions to prevent inefficiency in a pure gift economy due to wastage of resources that were not allocated to the most pressing need or want stresses the use of several methods involving collective shunning where collective groups keep track of other individuals’ productivity, rather than leaving each individual having to keep track of the rest of society by him or herself.


The economist Duran Bell postulates that exchanges in a gift economy are different from pure commodity exchange in that they are mainly used to build social relationships. Gifts between individuals or between groups help build a relationship, allowing the people to work together. The generosity of a gift improves a person’s prestige and social standing. Differences in social rank are not defined by differences in access to goods, but rather by “his ability to give to others, the desire to accumulate being seen as an indication of weakness.”

Various other recent social theories concerning gift economies exist. Some consider gifts to be a form of reciprocal altruism. Another interpretation is that social status is awarded in return for the gifts. Consider for example, the sharing of food in some hunter-gatherer societies, where food-sharing is a safeguard against the failure of any individual’s daily foraging. This custom may reflect concern for the well-being of others, it may be a form of informal insurance, or may bring with it social status or other benefits.

David Bollier takes the position that in a gift economy, “one’s ‘self-interest’ has a much broader, more humanistic feel than the utilitarian rationalism of economic theory”.


Anarchist anthropologist David Graeber in his 2011 book Debt: The First 5000 Years argues that with the advent of the great Axial Age civilizations, the nexus between coinage and the calculability of economic values was concomitant with the disrupt of what Graeber calls “human economies,” as found among the Iroquois, Celts, Inuit, Tiv, Nuer and the Malagasy people of Madagascar among other groups which, according to Graeber, held a radically different conception of debt and social relations, based on the radical incalculability of human life and the constant creation and recreation of social bonds through gifts, marriages and general sociability.

The author postulates the growth of a “military-coinage-slave complex” around this time, through which mercenary armies looted cities and human beings were cut from their social context to work as slaves in Greece, Rome and elsewhere in the Eurasian continent.

The extreme violence of the period marked by the rise of great empires in China, India and the Mediterranean was, in this way, connected with the advent of large-scale slavery and the use of coins to pay soldiers, together with the obligation enforced by the State for its subjects to pay its taxes in currency.

This was also the same time that the great religions spread out and the general questions of philosophical enquiry emerged on world history – many of those directly related, as in Plato’s Republic, with the nature of debt and its relation to ethics.

Capitalist Economy System embracing trades, finance and banking that operates on profitability, inflationary, debt and usury concept and practices are clear transgression of God’s (preferred non-monetary Gift Economy) path, be it from Jewish, Christian’s, or Muslim’s religious perspectives.

Inside Utrecht Giveaway shop. The banner reads “The earth has enough for everyone’s need, but not for everyone’s greed.”


Money and Life

Resource-based Economy versus Capitalist Economy

One Comment Add yours

  1. manan says:

    Is this “Market Economy” a result of ‘secularism in Economy’?

    download music

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s