Money and Relationships Workshop 3: Business or Friendship?

What's easier to define, a transaction, or sharing? A business transaction or a friendship? Money-based exchange or communal relations? Which is easier to talk about? Which do we have more precise language for?

What are communal relations? It turns out this is very hard to define actually, so let's talk about trust first:

"In conversation, lies, insults, put-downs and other sorts of verbal aggression are important--but they derive most of their power from the shared assumption that people do not ordinarily act this way: an insult does not sting unless one assumes that others will normally be considerate of one's feelings, and it's impossible to lie to someone who does not assume you would ordinarily tell the truth. When we genuinely wish to break off amicable relations with someone, we stop speaking to them entirely." Debt p.97

Do you find this generally true in your life? Is trust our basic assumption about other people? When is trust NOT our basic assumption?

Do you share things with other people? What are you most likely to share with people in your life? Food? Clothes? Money? Music? What motivates you to share?

"Sharing is not only about morality, it's also about pleasure… Solitary pleasures will always exist, but for most human beings, the most pleasurable activities almost always involve sharing something: music, food, liquor, drugs, gossip, drama, beds." Debt p.99

What is cooperation? When do you find yourself cooperating with people? Do you like cooperating with people? Is it fun or is it a burden? What impedes cooperation? Is it different when you're told to cooperate with someone than when you choose to? How is it different?

What is community? Let's take a quick poll:
Is a family a community?
Is an office a community?
Is a school?
A class?
A neighborhood?
A city?
Is this group a community?
Is a group of people who talk on the same webpage a community?

What's your definition of a community? What is communal feeling? What are communal actions? How do you know when something is communal, coming from or done for community? Is communalism the same as cooperation?

"The peasants' visions of communistic brotherhood did not come out of nowhere. They were rooted in real daily experience: of the maintenance of common fields and forests, of everyday cooperation and neighborly solidarity. ... Obviously, rural communities were also divided, squabbling places, since communities always are--but insofar as they are communities at all, they are necessarily founded on a ground of mutual aid." Debt p.326

"The greater the need in a community, the more communal the response. 'In the immediate wake of great disasters, people tend to behave the same way, revert to a rough and ready communalism. However briefly, hierarchies and markets and the like become luxuries that no one can afford. Anyone who who has lived through such a moment can speak to their peculiar qualities, the way that strangers become sisters and brothers and human society itself seems to be reborn. This is important, because it shows that we are not simply talking about cooperation. In fact communalism is the foundation of all human sociability. It's what makes society possible." Debt p.95

The greater the experience people have of sharing among themselves, the greater will be their commitment to the community thus formed. Sharing, in this context, relates to thoughts, beliefs, ideals, feelings and emotions, as well as to material objects, leadership and power. Sharing also relates to the effort to provide mutual services. The more that individuals recognize that others are working for the good of the whole, the stronger the bonds between them will grow. 'Communitarianism' by Allen Butcher

So, do we have enough information to create a working definition of 'communal relations' or 'communalism'?

What's a transaction? What kinds of transactions are there? Is there a difference between a 'transaction' and an 'exchange'? Are transactions always fair?

Exchange is all about equivalence. Both sides are keeping accounts, it's okay for both sides to keep account! Also, the entire relationship can be canceled out, and either party can call an end to it at any time. (paraphrase of) Debt p.103

What is the relationship between people in a transaction? Are they equals?
How much do you have to know about someone to make a transaction with them? When in a transaction with someone, to what level do we have to think about them as a person? How much do we have to think about their feelings, their concerns? What kinds of transactions require more knowledge of the other party?

Do we make transactions with friends? Is the feeling different? How do we differentiate between the transaction and the friendship?

Is it a good idea to run a business with a friend? Is it a good idea to sell something to a friend? Is it more or less complicated than transacting with a stranger?

So, do we have enough information to create a working definition of "transactional relations"?

What's the difference between a debt and an obligation?

"On one level the difference between an obligation and a debt is simple and obvious. A debt is the obligation to pay a certain sum of money. As a result, a debt, unlike any other form of obligation, can be precisely quantified. This allows debts to become simple, cold and impersonal--which, in turn allows them to be transferable.*

If one owes a favor, or one's life, to another human being, it is owed to that person specifically. But if one owes forty thousand dollars at 12-percent interest, it doesn't really matter who the creditor is: neither does either of the two parties have to think much about what the other party needs, wants, is capable of doing--as they certainly would if what was owed was a favor, or respect, or gratitude. One does not need to calculate the human effects; one need only calculate principal, balances, penalties, and rates of interest. If you end up having to abandon your home and wander in other provinces, if your daughter ends up in a mining camp working as a prostitute, well, that's unfortunate, but incidental to the creditor. Money is money, and a deal's a deal. Debt, p.13-14

Concluding Statement Reflection Questions:
What's the difference between sharing and trading? Friendship and business? Communal and transactional relationships?

Could money substitute for communal relations? Does money displace communal relations? Does introducing money end communal relations?

1 comment:

  1. Hi, the discussion of the possible altruism in business area last night is really interesting! I found an article in Guardian talking about this and you may like to take a glance of it!