Alternative Economic Paradigms: The Gift Economy

By Shae Hadden | Bio

I’ve been glancing in shop windows recently as I wander my new neighborhood. There seem to be more sales and discounts now at the retail outlets than ever before, as if lowering a ticketed price will lure consumers in to buy when the prevailing mood is one of restraint and caution. Experts argue over whether our market economy is going to limp along in its current form or be remade or redefined. Scarcity thinking seems to predominate consumer behavior. Meanwhile, what I don’t want us to lose sight of are the barter and gift economies that co-exist (and continue to evolve) alongside the regular buying and selling of goods.

A ‘gift economy’ is one in which people give away products and services without any expectation of compensation. In a way, bartering is a reciprocal form of ‘gifting’, in which two parties exchange what they need with each other and eliminate the transfer of money. In a gift economy, simultaneous giving to others (and not just a back and forth between two people) is looked on favorably, as it circulates and more widely redistributes resources within a community. In

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