We give drinks to friends, we give drinks to women, we give drinks to someone who cannot afford a drink, and we give drinks to the person whose birthday it is. We even sacrifice a drink to the dead by tipping it on the floor. Why do we do this? – Because like any gift, a gifted drink is furthering social solidarity.
When someone gives a gift to someone, the recipient is under the spell of a ‘spiritual bond’ (Mauss, 1954/2002: 4). Subsequently, a social link is established that makes us part of a community. Occasionally people shy away from receiving gifts, because they suspect an ulterior motive, an unforeseeable development of an interpersonal situation, and an obligatory tie. The latter is due to the gift’s co-dependency of a return gift.
When we get a friend a drink, the friend might buy us a drink in return. When we tip whiskey on the floor for a dead person, we hope that there is an afterlife and that she will suck it up from underneath the floorboards or tarmac, and that when we die, someone else continues this ritual, so that we won’t go thirsty through purgatory. One of the main aspects of generosity is that we do not ask for anything in return: We do not anticipate a return gift. We do not assume anything, for if we would, the action would deviate from the category ‘gift’ to the category ‘trade’ (Van Baal, 1976). Nevertheless, the gift and return-gift ritual is a sustainable invention that has potential of rhizomatic growth.
Regarding the beverage buying for female recipients, I undertook an extensive field study in the last few years, where I always happily accepted the offer. Mainly other women, who identified this as a conniving trick of males who are aware that their action creates a vacuum of an obligatory return-gift, criticised my methodological approach.
There is also a historic tradition to buy women a beverage. This phenomenon arose as a result of women not earning as much money as men. We can still see this phenomenon happen today, and there is a threefold dilemma that women experience: Their own economic value, the economic dependency on men, and the fear of being classed as a floozy, should they accept. And if a woman hasn’t got any money to buy a return drink, she still has her body to give.
But because I do not conform to such simple capitalist solutions, I would not suspect anyone of being so stupid to conform to these also, especially when the gift that I have just received bursts the boundaries of the capitalist idea of economy.