This is the only way forward for humanity… an economics that restores to wholeness our fractured communities, relationships, cultures, ecosystems, and planet.

If there is ONLY one book that you should read, in the year 2012…this IS it!

“There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come.” – Victor Hugo


Charles Eisenstein

Even after all this time The sun never says to the earth, “You owe Me.”

Look what happens with a love like that, It lights the Whole Sky. – Hafiz

The converging crises of our time all arise from a common root that we might call Separation. Taking many forms — the human/nature split, the disintegration of community, the division of reality into material and spiritual realms — Separation is woven into every aspect of our civilization. It is also unsustainable: it generates great and growing crises that are propelling us into a new era, an Age of Reunion…

Money is a key element of the story of Separation that defines our civilization.
Excerpts from Chapter1:

In the beginning was the Gift.

We are born helpless infants, creatures of pure need with little resource to give, yet we are fed, we are protected, we are clothed and held and soothed, without having done anything to deserve it, without offering anything in exchange. This experience, common to everyone who has made it past childhood, informs some of our deepest spiritual intuitions. Our lives are given us; therefore, our default state is gratitude. It is the truth of our existence.

Even if your childhood was horrific, if you are reading this right now, at least you were given enough to sustain you to adulthood. For the first years of life, none of this was anything you earned or produced. It was all a gift. Imagine walking out the door right now and finding yourself plunged into an alien world in which you were completely helpless, unable to feed or clothe yourself, unable to use your limbs, unable even to distinguish where your body ends and the world begins. Then huge beings come and hold you, feed you, take care of you, love you. Wouldn‘t you feel grateful?

In moments of clarity, perhaps after a narrow brush with death, or upon accompanying a loved one through the death process, we know that life itself is a gift. We experience an overwhelming gratitude at being alive. We walk in wonderment at the riches, undeserved and freely available, that come with life: the joy of breathing, the delights of color and sound, the pleasure of drinking water to quench thirst, the sweetness of a loved one‘s face. This sense of mixed awe and gratitude is a clear sign of the presence of the sacred. 

…While I believe in the fundamental divinity of human beings, I also recognize that we have embarked on a long sojourn of separation from that divinity, and created a world in which ruthless sociopaths rise to wealth and power.

Today‘s economic system rewards selfishness and greed.

Circulation is a better word.

…While gifts can be reciprocal, just as often they flow in circles. I give to you, you give to someone else … and eventually someone gives back to me. A famous example is the kula system of the Trobriand Islanders, in which precious necklaces circulate in one direction from island to island, and bracelets in the other direction. First described in depth by the anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski, kula, which literally means ―circle,‖ is the lynchpin of a vast system of gifts and other economic exchanges. Marcel Mauss describes it as follows:

The system of gift-through-exchange permeates all the economic, tribal, and moral life of the Trobriand people. It is  ― impregnated‖ with it, as Malinowski very neatly expressed it. It is a constant ―give and take.‖ The process is marked by a continuous flow in all directions of presents given, accepted, and reciprocated. [2]

While the pinnacle of the kula system is the highly ritualized exchange of ceremonial bracelets and necklaces by chiefs, the gift network surrounding it extends to all kinds of utilitarian items, food, boats, labor, and so forth. Outright barter, according to Mauss, is unusual. In any event, ―Generally, even what has been received and comes into one‘s possession in this way—in whatever manner—is not kept for oneself, unless one cannot do without it.‖3 In other words, gifts flow continuously, only stopping in their circulation when they meet a real, present need. Here is Lewis Hyde‘s poetic description of this principle of the gift:

The gift moves toward the empty place. As it turns in its circle it turns toward him who has been empty-handed the longest, and if someone appears elsewhere whose need is greater it leaves its old channel and moves toward him. Our generosity may leave us empty, but our emptiness then pulls gently at the whole until the thing in motion returns to replenish us. Social nature abhors a vacuum. [4]
… Unlike a modern money transaction, which is closed and leaves no obligation, a gift transaction is open-ended, creating an ongoing tie between the participants. Another way of looking at it is that the gift partakes of the giver, and that when we give a gift, we give something of ourselves.
…gifts expand the circle of self to include the entire community. Whereas money today embodies the principle, “More for me is less for you,” in a gift economy, more for you is also more for me because those who have give to those who need. Gifts cement the mystical realization of participation in something greater than oneself which, yet, is not separate from oneself. The axioms of rational self- interest change because the self has expanded to include something of the other.
…It is ironic indeed that money, originally a means of connecting gifts with needs, originally an outgrowth of a sacred gift economy, is now precisely what blocks the blossoming of our desire to give, keeping us in deadening jobs out of economic necessity, and forestalling our most generous impulses with the words, ― “I can‘t afford to do that.” We live in an omnipresent anxiety, borne of the scarcity of the money which we depend on for life—witness the phrase ― “the cost of living.” Our purpose for being, the development and full expression of our gifts, is mortgaged to the demands of money, to making a living, to surviving. Yet no one, no matter how wealthy, secure, or comfortable, can ever feel fulfilled in a life where those gifts remain latent. Even the best-paid job, if it does not engage our gifts, soon feels deadening, and we think, ― “I was not put here on earth to do this.
Even when a job does engage our gifts, if the purpose is something we don‘t believe in, the same deadening feeling of futility arises again, the feeling that we are not living our own lives, but only the lives we are paid to live. ―”Challenging” and ― “interesting” are not good enough, because our gifts are sacred, and therefore meant for a sacred purpose.
That we are indeed here on earth to do something is essentially a religious concept, for conventional biology teaches that we have evolved to be able to survive, that any effort toward something outside of survival and reproduction goes against our genetic programming. However, one can make a cogent neo-Lamarckian case that the view of biology as consisting of myriad discrete, separate competing selves—organisms or “selfish genes”—is more a projection of our own present-day culture than it is an accurate understanding of nature.[13] There are other ways of understanding nature that, while not ignoring its obvious competition, give primacy to cooperation, symbiosis, and the merging of organisms into larger wholes. This new understanding is actually quite ancient, echoing the indigenous understanding of nature as a web of gifts.
Each organism and each species makes a vital contribution to the totality of life on earth, and this contribution, contrary to the expectations of standard evolutionary biology, need not have any direct benefit for the organism itself. Nitrogen-fixing bacteria don‘t directly benefit from doing so, except that the nitrogen they give to the soil grows plants that grow roots that grow fungi, which ultimately provide nutrients to the bacteria. Pioneer species pave the way for keystone species, which provide microniches for other species, which feed yet other species in a web of gifts that, eventually, circle back to benefit the pioneer species. Trees bring up water to water other plants, and algae make oxygen so that animals can breathe. Remove any being, and the health of all becomes more precarious…
The Revolution Is Love (2011) – short film by Ian MacKenzie, a teaser on the ideas of Charles Eisenstein and the return of the gift.

To Build Community, an Economy of Gifts

For a multitude of reasons, we need to need each other.
Listen to: