Over the last five years, corporations and individuals have given more money, more often, to charitable organizations than ever before. What could possibly be the downside to inhabiting a golden age of gift-giving? That question lies at the heart of Timothy Campbell’s account of contemporary giving and its social forms. In a milieu where gift-giving dominates, nearly everything given and received becomes the subject of a calculus—gifts from God, from benefactors, from those who have. Is there another way to conceive of generosity? What would giving and receiving without gifts look like?
A lucid and imaginative intervention in both European philosophy and film theory, The Techne of Giving investigates how we hold the objects of daily life—indeed, how we hold ourselves—in relation to neoliberal forms of gift-giving. Even as instrumentalism permeates giving, Campbell articulates a resistant techne locatable in forms of generosity that fail to coincide with biopower’s assertion that the only gifts that count are those given and received. Moving between visual studies, Winnicottian psychoanalysis, Foucauldian biopower, and apparatus theory, Campbell makes a case for how to give and receive without giving gifts. In the conversation between political philosophy and classic Italian films by Visconti, Rossellini, and Antonioni, the potential emerges of a generous form of life that can cross between the visible and invisible, the fated and the free.