Lévi-Strauss' (1950: xxxviii) analysis of Mauss' theory of gift exchange, however,
posits that it is the exchange as a constructed object which “constitutes the primary
phenomenon, and not the individual operations into which social life breaks it down.”
I agree that “it is of the nature of money...to be used in an indefinite succession of
payments, that is, to circulate” (Crump 1992:94); but, as Crump himself defines the
circulation of money, “payment is simply the transfer from one person to another
of a quantity of money.” Trompf's analysis of the logic of retribution in Melanesia,
where several studies on gift exchange have been conducted (De Coppet 1968, 1970;
Malinowski 1964), illustrates the key point:
The “paying back” involved in daily exchanges...is not just the handing over
of abstract, impersonalized denotations of value, as in monetarized society (cf.
Marx 1973:156-59, 221-25; Weber 1946:331), but forever entails for givers
and takers the sense of fulfilling obligations, and thus the heightened awareness
that their (economic) activity is conditioned by social and more-than-human
expectations [1994:114, emphasis added].
Let us look, finally, at another example involving money in which reciprocal and
capitalist structuring resources were articulated. In May, 1982, Paiê Kayabi, a
student at the Diauarum School, published his report of a trip to Bang-Bang in the
local Indigenous newsletter Memória do Xingu :
On May 15 I joined Canísio [Kayabi] down river because he wanted to buy 80
liters of gasoline. He took 108 bunches of bananas to sell in Bang-Bang. He
sold each one for 500.00. He was only able to sell 50 [bunches of bananas].
It came out to 25,000.00, and the rest he sold for 200.00 each. He was only
able to sell 30 bunches of bananas. He received another 6,000.00. Total money
was 31,000.00. The rest of the bananas he gave to the white men [as cited in
Paiê articulates the problem and its solution both simultaneously and dialectically.
The data involving the banana sale are worked out mathematically and the answers
to each subproblem are presented at particular parts during the narrative. The intent
to buy gasoline contextualizes the situation in which the bananas were sold, but it
is not presented as a dilemma that requires a solution. The gift of the remaining
bananas to non-Indians can be interpreted according to the Kayabi system of food
distribution. The basic principles of such a generous system oblige people to give
food and to embarrass those who ask for it (Travassos 1984:56-62). In this sense
there are no “rests;” that is, the Kayabi do not neglect the remains of a transaction
as capitalism pejoratively does, because such remains do not represent loss or
something that should have been “profitable” but was not. In this case, the notion of
what constitutes an arithmetical “problem” is intrinsically tied to the economy of a
basically egalitarian society (Ferreira 1994b:31).