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The Gift of European Thought and the Cost of Living

The Gift of European Thought and the Cost of Living

Vassos Argyrou
Copyright Date: 2013
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 146
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  • Book Info
    The Gift of European Thought and the Cost of Living
    Book Description:

    European thought is often said to be a gift to the rest of the world, but what if there is no gift as such? What if there is only an economy where every giving is also a taking, and every taking is also a giving? This book extends the question of economies by making a case for an "economy of thought" and a "political economy." It argues that all thinking and doing presupposes taking, and therefore giving, as the price to pay for taking; or that there exists a "cost of living," which renders the idea of free thinking and living untenable. The argument is developed against the Enlightenment directive to think for oneself as the means of becoming autonomous and shows that this "light," given to the rest of the world as a gift, turns out to be nothing.

    eISBN: 978-1-78238-018-4
    Subjects: Anthropology, Philosophy, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[viii])
  3. CHAPTER 1 The Circle
    (pp. 1-9)

    The Kula is probably the best known and most celebrated anthropological example of the gift. It is also a graphic (in the double sense of the term) example of a certain circle in which the gift is implicated – a ‘ring’, says Malinowski, that forms a ‘closed circuit’. Yet this is not the only circle here. There is another that is prior to and much more fundamental than any ring of the kind that Malinowski describes. It is the circle of the gift itself – the gift’s own circularity.

    The Kula is a form of exchange carried out by ‘communities inhabiting a...

  4. CHAPTER 2 The Gift of European Thought
    (pp. 10-40)

    This quotation is from a book that belongs to the genre of postcolonial theory or, better still, postcolonial critique, since critique is the avowed intention and rationale of this theory – in theory at least. It is the last paragraph of the book, and it makes a final attempt to manage the deep-seated contradiction that haunts the book but also, more broadly, the genre to which the book belongs. Yet the contradiction proves intractable, and the fragments of the text spill over into the margins and beyond the book itself. Let us name this contradiction before proceeding any further. And let...

  5. CHAPTER 3 The Economy of Thought
    (pp. 41-78)

    Although perceptions have changed somewhat over the years, it is still the case that Derrida’s critique of the ‘metaphysics of presence’, of the possibility of time as the present and hence the possibility also of the gift and of the gift of thought as a present, is understood in certain academic circles as an example of postmodern irrationalism that threatens to destroy the foundations of knowledge and truth. These are the ‘Knights of the Good and the True’, says Caputo (1997: 38) in his defence of Derrida, the pillars of rationality. It is not uncommon, he says, with perhaps a...

  6. CHAPTER 4 Political Economy
    (pp. 79-110)

    Revolutions revolve. They go round and come round, follow a circular trajectory that takes them back to the point of departure. They were meant to revolve, even if this is not how the term is understood today. It is what it means literally and how it was still understood in the seventeenth century – as a social movement whose aim was to restore an earlier state of affairs. We have Arendt’s authority to vouch for this. ‘The word [revolution] was first used not when what we call revolution broke out in England and Cromwell rose to the first revolutionary dictatorship’. On...

  7. CHAPTER 5 The Cost of Living
    (pp. 111-130)

    In the third chapter of this book I have argued that what the motto of the Enlightenment prescribes – ‘think for yourself’ – is impossible and that this impossibility is precisely the impossibility of making (a) present, which includes making oneself (a) present to oneself. The point was argued primarily in terms of the historical unconscious, that is, with respect to what the subject takes for granted in time or in the meantime to become a subject – a self-identifying and identifiable being, a member of a particular society and culture and so on. As we noted, the philosophers of the Enlightenment had...

  8. References
    (pp. 131-133)
  9. Index
    (pp. 134-138)