In this time of world economic crisis it is more important than ever to find deep alternatives to a system that is proving itself to be dysfunctional. It is not surprising that such alternatives would have to do with women, and especially with mothers, whose roles of directly providing for the needs of their children form patterns of care that can be generalized.
Mothering can be seen as a mode of distribution, a vestigial or nascent gift economy, which co-exists with the market but could be taken as the model for a way of organizing society as a whole. The fact that the values of care, necessary for mothering, are in opposition to the values of greed and domination, which have motivated the present economic crash, demonstrates that an economic system based on mothering could be a radical and positive alternative. The fact that mothers are now uniting in movements of consciousness and solidarity can allow us to expect that they will support a change of the economy towards care and away from exploitation.
Matriarchal societies had and have distribution of goods to needs, as well as celebrations and festivals where different groups take turns in distributing their goods to other groups. These are true gift economies. The leadership of women, decision making by women, matrilineality, matrilocality, and prototype of the mother are characteristics of these societies, which are not mirror images of patriarchies, but peaceful , balanced societies in which men, if they are to be leaders, must be ‘like good mothers’. Matriarchies are egalitarian societies that embrace the model of the mother as the model of the human.
Both Matriarchal Studies and Gift Economy studies generalize maternal values to the society at large. Mothering is not relegated to the nursery and there is not a break between the adult economy and the economy of childhood. Rather the importance of the relationships developed in giving and receiving is elaborated in understanding and developing all relationships in these societies.
The feminist vision based on the logic of the Gift Economy and the feminist vision of Matriarchal Studies support each other. The discourse of the Gift Economy emphasizes the distribution of goods to needs and the circulation of gifts, while Matriarchal Studies provides concrete historical examples of matriarchal societies as well as modern societies that still function according to matriarchal principles.
This international conference was organized by:
It was guided by Genevieve Vaughan and Heide Goettner-Abendroth.