Decouple Giving & Taking

Decouple Giving & Taking means, that people receive without being forced to return and give without expecting to receive back.

You can't steel a gift.

This pattern refers to omnipresent social phenomena we all benefit from since our first moments on Earth. It describes practices where people get or use something, without necessarily having to give something back, let alone something of equal economic value. Think about a baby that hasn't to give anything back for being fed or remember the lutherian idea of God's Grace - which you receive not for paying an indulgence to the Church, but simply for being a human creature. Wherever this patterns finds an expression, the use of quid pro quos is minimized.

Anthropologist Thomas Widlok puts it that way:

It lacks the back and forth coupling that is so characteristic of gift-exchange systems. Depending on other conditions in the cultural setting a sharing system may produce some reciprocal effects in the long run without this being its guiding principle.

However, in the commons, there 'giving & taking' or 'contributing & using' seem to be not fully decoupled. Commoning is neither just giving nor just taking. There are two reasons:

On the one hand

"sharing as a norm may be “unconditional” but sharing as a practice is not “unconditioned”. The question is what conditions sharing if it is not a simple law of reciprocity. (Widlok)

In other words:

[...] a loose sense of mutual recognition is to be distinguished from calculable reciprocal returns.

'Decouple Giving & Taking" is distinct from unconditional, permanent giving. It rather states, that people can 'in principle' enjoy access and use rights, but the 'concrete' Where?, When?, What? and How Much? needs to be given back or contributed to the common pool depends on the context, the resource at stake, the commonly agreed upon rules, the traditions etc. These rules, however, are (supposed to be) based on the needs and capabilities of the people involved.

On the other hand People also Practice Gentle Reciprocity in the commons.

The following might be useful for the Gentle Reciprocity-

The idea comes close to what is often described as 'Indirect reciprocity, an important concept in most commons because direct reciprocity (as in markets) tends to be transactional and less personal, while indirect reciprocity builds bonds of social affection and connection among people.

Discuss the last paragraph; commoning / commons, i.e. "decouple giving & taking" must also work among strangers (non-kin) - and in fact it does. If not, it's not good enough. The point here is to apply this concept to relationsships that go beyond the personal

The classic analysis of this dynamic is set forth in Lewis Hyde's 1979 book, "The Gift," which explores the spiritual and emotional significance of gift exchange as revealed in diverse cultures, anthropology, fairy tales, and literature.

Explaining the difference of "circular giving" vs. reciprocal giving, Hyde (wiki ) writes:

"When I give to someone from whom I do not receive (and yet I do receive elsewhere), it is as if the gift goes around a corner before it comes back. I have to give blindly. And I will feel a sort of blind gratitude as well....When the gift moves in a circle its motion is beyond the control of the personal ego, and so each bearer must be a part of the group and each donation is an act of social faith."

When this ethic is applied to humans and nature, it reintegrates human beings with the natural rhythms and limits of the nonhuman world: "The forest's abundance is in fact a consequence of man's treating its wealth as a gift," writes Hyde -- a phenomenon borne out by indigenous cultures and their gift rituals to the fertility of nature. By contrast, "Anything contained within a boundary must contain as well its own exhaustion," which explains why the reciprocal relationships of capitalism are ultimately dependent upon externalities (nature, social life, care work, etc.).

Donation Button. source

# You give...? - what you can - what you are capable to contribute or produce - what you need to according to the commonly agreed upon rules - what you feel comfortable with according to the principle of fairness within the commons

by Tumisu on Pixabay, Public Domain. source

# You take...? - what you need according to the availibility of the resource and the principle of fairness among all involved - a fair share of so called rivalrous resources (as they get less, when we share them) -> "Pool & Share" - open access to non-rivalrous resources (as they get more when we share them) -> Cap & Share or Mutualize

# Examples - many indigineous cultures, f.i. Sugluk Inuit in Northern Canada - care - donations, charity, civic & social associations - traditional cultures with gift economies - gift boxes - open source projects - Fab Labs and makerspaces - CSAs - UBI - and many others

# Source materials taz Oct. 10 2011: Entkoppeln von Geben und Nehmen - an interview about Free Shops (= Umsonstladen) in Germany html Lewis Hyde: "The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property" Marcel Mauss, "The Gift Thomas Widlok cv (2017): Anthropology and the Economy of Sharing html

pls add complete source at least the year and a link

SH: To be discussed: does it "mimic natural systems?