There is something almost religious about modern scholarship’s ascetic renunciation and disavowal of any positive meaning in donative acts. To admit that a gift really can be given would be to indulge in a desire that has been penuriously prohibited. This temptation would be a transgression against the rigorous authority (the operational requirements) of theory and critique. Nevertheless, it is too easy to reduce all interactions to the single model of exchange. Indeed, elevating exchange to a metaphysical principle can be reassuring because of the dominance of economic rationality in the modern Western world. To insinuate that all relationships are secretly controlled by exchange is to make our own presuppositions final and universal. Thinking the other of exchange becomes possible only by bracketing our own convenient expectations and conspiratorial prejudices.

If exchange is the dominant model for social interaction today, then authentic gift giving is in trouble. If the gift always rebounds to the giver, then how can it really be given in the first place? The circle is a powerful symbol for reciprocity, the coincidence of beginnings and endings, an economy where what is sent must necessarily return, but the geometry of the gift must be closer to a disjunctive loop if it is to trace the figure of generosity. Exchange is the process where the energy of the gift is exhausted or consumed, converting the gift into the commodity.

Stephen H. Webb, contra Nietzsche, Derrida and Bataille.