Economy vs. the Gift?

Posted by on December 12, 2007 at 11:35 am.

In Peter Leithart’s post “Gift and Economy,” after clarifying that in reality, the gift and economy are not actually opposed, he concludes with the following question: “If I am right about classical economic theory (and I might stand corrected), the question arises of why it should have developed this way.  Why would gift/gratitude/relationship be left out of economic consideration?  And, how would economic theory be different if it’s included?”

I am no economist, but my first inclination is to say that the reason that gift/gratitude/relationship is left out of economic consideration is because modern economics itself it predicated upon an economy of lack.  The gift is one of surplus, one that in divine terms as D.B. Hart puts it in regards to Anselm, one that “exceeds every debt.”  In the gift, there is always a ‘more’ that exceeds the violence of exchange, which is also why Milbank is right to argue for the gift before the contract in our society (see his essay “Liberality versus Liberalism”).  Economic theory, if it assumed an economy of abundance (jubilee economics), would be very much more distributive, I think!