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Exchange and Gift - Page 35

There remains the third world. There remain the old forms of oppression. That the serfs of the latifundia should be the contemporaries of the new proletariat seems to me a perfect formula for the explosive mixture from which the total revolution will be born. Who would dare to suppose that the South American Indians will be satisfied with land reform and lay down their arms when the best-paid workers in Europe are demanding a radical change in their way of life? From now on, the revolt against the State of Well-Being sets the minimum demands for world revolution. You can choose to forget this, but you forget it at your peril... as Saint-Just said, those who make a revolution by halves do nothing but dig their own graves.


The nobility and the proletariat conceive human relationships on the model of giving, but the proletarian way of giving supersedes the feudal gift. The bourgeoisie, the class of exchange, is the lever which enables the feudal project to be overthrown and superseded in the long revolution (1). History is the continuous transformation of natural alienation into social alienation, and the continuous strengthening of a contradictory movement of opposition which will overcome all alienation and end history. The historical struggle against natural alienation transforms natural alienation into social alienation, but the movement of historical disalienation eventually attacks social alienation itself and reveals that it is based on magic. This magic has to do with privative appropriation. It is expressed through sacrifice. Sacrifice is the archaic form of exchange. The extreme quantification of exchange reduces man to an object. From this rock bottom a new type of human relationship, involving neither exchange nor sacrifice, can be born (2).


The bourgeoisie administers a precarious and none-too-glorious interregnum between the sacred hierarchy of feudalism and the anarchic order of future classless societies. The bourgeois no-man's-land of exchange is the uninhabitable region separating the old, unhealthy pleasure of giving oneself, in which the aristocrats indulged, and the pleasure of giving through love of oneself, which the new generations of proletarians are little by little beginning to discover.

'Fair exchange' is the favourite absurdity of capitalism and its essentially similar competitors. The USSR 'offers' its hospitals and technicians, just as the USA 'offers' its investments and good offices, and supermarkets 'offer' 'free gifts'.

But the fact is that the meaning of giving has been rooted out from our minds, feelings and actions. Remember Breton and his friends offering roses to the pretty girls on the Boulevard Poissoniere, and immediately arousing the suspicion and hostility of the public.

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