[Air-l] Re: Community versus Company

David Neice neice at kw.igs.net
Fri Dec 21 09:34:41 PST 2001


This thread, it seems, has struck a nerve. I offer another angle. 

Communalism relies on practices of reciprocity and on creative 
economy based on sharing. Companies are entities devoted to 
practices involving markets and exchange. There are of course 
plenty of hybrids - companies where caring for others is strongly 
valued as well as voluntary associations with business interests. 
There are also plenty of pretenders, where the relevant words are 
mouthed without actually being translated into practices. 

I do see them as antagonistic. Each inscribes a certain model of 
human activity. Communalism posits that we are first and foremost 
a social species, whereas companies, as legal agents within 
markets, posit that we are basically 'homo econimus'. This is the 
same tension that defines and separates sociology and 
contemporary economics. Which model truly represents our 
species' characteristics? The web of social ties or market 
transactions? The triumphalism of the latter fosters the yearning (or 
nostalgia) for the former.         

One of the really important distinctions between the reciprocal 
practices of communalism and the exchange practices of markets 
depends on the (relative) alienation of entities that circulate. In 
markets, entities are primarily alienable, they are sharply 
separated from their creator or owner and are then assigned 
exchange value or worth. In reciprocal practices the entities 
(usually gifts) are inalienable, they socially tie benefactor and 
beneficiary and carry moral obligations. 

David C. Neice     
digital-literacy.com :-)  
Website at http://www.kw.igs.net/~neice/
Address: 47 Combermere, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada N2L 5B2
Tel: 519-885-2951   Fax: 519-885-5263

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