A Kula ring, as a gift, makes relations and reputations. Through the exchange kula gains value, but only due to their role. Usually made of necklaces and arm shells, kula’s different type of worthiness disrupts typical economic standards of ‘value’. The difference between value making in kula and normal capitalist standards is substantial enough for many to wish for separate logic for making value. The idea that things and persons are together a gift, creating personal relations because of such, means that ‘things’ do not just have value in use and commodity exchange. Rather, kula has higher value in the social relationships and reputations gained from such a trade.
This idea seems obvious yet I have never gone in depth on how it effects typical standards. Gift giving has been around for quite some time, and gaining credibility is no new feature behind it. But when comparing it to capitalistic ideals, I noticed it would probably change how the whole system is viewed.
Taking it back to the main feature of this book, Matsutake, a type of mushroom, starts and ends its life as a gift. Due to its nature of only growing in only certain conditions and under no human control for recreation, the Matsutake is unpredictable especially compared to corporate rhythm. Business pushes forward as the pulse of progress, “effectively reshaping the world according to its goals and needs” (page 132). On the opposite end the spectrum, Matsutake has no rhythm besides a picker giving to a receiver. If the “economic system is presented to us as a set of abstraction requiring assumptions about participants…” (page 132) then the business world wants nothing to do with kula, as it upsets ‘what is.’
I enjoyed this part in particular: “However, it seems to me that capitalism also has characteristics of a machine, a contraption limited to the sum of its parts… But not just any translation can be accepted into capitalism. The gathering it sponsors is not openended. An army of technicians and managers stand by to remove offending parts…” What confused me was following this sentence with “This does not mean that the machine has a static form.” When it seems to me this is kinda what she’s trying to prove?