Keywords: communication, gift, negativity, Kula, surplus value, jouissance, abstract and concrete labor, alienation


[In Russian]

The article provides a reading of the Kula ritual described by Malinovsky through the prism of Lacanian psychoanalysis. The exchange of gifts, not being limited to the struggle for recognition and prestige, reveals its symbolic logic through the concepts of the signifier, negativity and the Name of the Father. The economy of the gift and the commodity economy are considered as two fundamental historical orders of exchange, with a critical generalization regarding the system of mass communications, characterized by the processes of decay of symbolic exchange. Following Lacanian logic, we can say that the closed contour of the Kula ring is the language as a system in its original form. Words circulate in it. Words that have not yet formed a frozen nomenclature of the dictionary but perform the function of passwords, words-transitions. The main function of this communicative apparatus is the system of recognizing "friend or foe" and establishing a network of relations between "friends". In other words, the very utterance of the word ("password") is here performative, it establishes a symbolic union be-tween the speakers, creates the very positions of the "sender" and "addressee" of the message. That is, the words become the names of the participants — which are essentially the gifts. The Kula members present each other with their "selves". The system of capitalism opens the circle of symbolic exchange into the arhythmic infinity of monetary accumulation. It is pleasure that takes the form of surplus value, and not the "stolen" (unpaid) hours of working time. In the sense that all work is “stolen,” radically transformed. This means that concrete labor becomes abstract labor, which is fixed and reproduced in the form of money. In this way, money acts as an active form that changes the content of labor. The reproduction of "energy", libido, and desire in the communicative apparatus of symbolic exchange was stable. Desire was immanent in production and exchange. Language, identity, labor were “looped” in the symbolic contour of the gift economy. With a small variety of work activities and its extremely low ef ciency, work did not feel like a painful, empty obligation, there was no “pandemic” of depression, quick “burnout” at work, loss of interest in life – loss of desire, in a word. In the system of mass communications, we are dealing with a progressive disintegration of the communicative medium. An increasingly intense network spectacle unfolds before us as a compensation for alienated, abstract labor into the quagmire of which the former privileged strata of society (urban professionals, liberal professions) are also being dragged.


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Author Biography

Andrei Gornykh, European Humanities University

Philosopher, professor at the European Humanities University (EHU) 17 Savičiaus Str., 01127 Vilnius, Lithuania

How to Cite
Gornykh, A. (2020). ANTHROPOLOGY OF VALUE: DESIRE AND COMMUNICATION (B. MALINOWSKI, J. LACAN). Topos, (2), 112-128. Retrieved from