is not in it for the money but to contribute to science

March 27, 2009

In Scientific instrument making, epistemology, and the conflict between gift and commodity economies form Davis Baird shows other point of view on the Gift economy.

The main purpose of Gift economies is to serve to bind people together. They create and maintain social groups. The gift, to be true, must be the flowing of the giver unto me, correspondent to my flowing unto him (Ralph Waldo Emerson in Gifts) Gift economies establish social boundaries; one must give to the group in order to be part of the group and receive the group’s gifts in return.
Davis Baird gives example of Edison which tried to develop and adapt scientific discoveries into salable commodities from which he gained profit. Edison availed himself of the gifts of the scientific community, but instead of giving back to that community, he sold his inventions. Edison turned scientific gifts into commercial commodities, and thereby excluded himself from the scientific community. It shows that the commodity economies work against bonding. The rules and expectations which govern commodity exchange serve to define and delimit mutual responsibility and future obligation between the parties involved.
Davis Baird establish that gifts cannot be produced alone, nor by taking some object “off the shelf.” Gifts are recycled gifts. Objects which are gifts need something of the giver. He refers to Herein and his argumentation that creative endeavors, be they artistic or instrument making, rely on a gift economy. Edison may well have said that invention is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration, but inspiration-even if only 1%-remains necessary .
Gifts by Davis Baird must move. Gift economies require a cycle of giving. An Indian gift is a proverbial expression signifying a present for which an equivalent return is expected. The next authors reference is to Hyde and his example of shared peace pipe. The Indians expected the pipe to be returned, or better, recycled and given to others as part of the socially binding cycle of giving peace making: The Indian giver understood a cardinal property of the gift: whatever we have been given is supposed to be given away again, not kept. Or if it is kept, something of similar value should move on in its stead.
ccumulation capital in the form of profits is the Capitalist aim. Gifts cannot be accumulated like profits; they must be plowed back into the cycle of gift giving. Gifts received must be given away or they cease to be gifts and the recipient of the gift ceases to belong to the gift group.
In the next part of essay author speaks about obligation, which was developed a lot of in Mauss work. Gifts given and gifts received call up the joy of human connection, but also the suffering of obligation: bonding and ensnaring. As commodity economies establish status hierarchies through how much is accumulated, gift economies establish hierarchies through how much one gives.
The conclusion of his work is compact in three points:
1. Creative work needs a gift economy. It is in the nature of the creative impulse to give to-and to take from-the creative community. This is a consequence of the fact that creative people stand on shoulders. Gifts received prompt gifts given.
2. Creative work-instrument making, in any case-is capital intensive and, consequently, must also exist in a commodity economy. The “little bit of plus” is necessary.
(Instrument making cost author developed on the base of academic community. Gift economies are necessary for knowledge production and dissemination. Academics articles are written and published, but, typically, no fee is paid to their authors. The articles are intellectual gifts given in return for receiving the intellectual gifts of others.Knowledge as gift is relatively inexpensive but its dissemination costs money. It means that gifts- of-material-knowledge also are commodities. It brings me question what happen where the dissemination is free from charge? When cost of diffusion is equal zero? Does it still commodity???)
3. These two demands exist in tension. There is no simple rule for specifying how much to give versus how much to charge. This is a matter that is negotiated case by case, weaving a path between economic ruin and creative alienation.


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