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The ingratitude of the other in the Maussian circle

In "The trace of the Other", Levinas describes the movement without return towards the other as requiring "a radical generosity of the same who [...] goes unto the other" and also " but also "requires an ingratitude of the other". He adds that "[g]ratitude would be in fact the return of the movement to its origin". The return of the movement to its origin is pŕecisely the Maussian circle - the circle of perpetual gratitude, described by Mauss, that makes everyone tied to a social structure by a state of contunuous debt. The Maussian circle is hard to escape because it involves every social act in a scheme of debts and gratitude - it is a total social fact that reaches beyond any supposedly defined economic realm. A gift of any kind brings in itself the poison of a possible hostility because it produces a burden upon whoever receives it. The gift is tied to an often vague but enforced norm of retribution that is always in the brink of paving the way for hostility. Ingratitude would be a way out - and in fact could be understood as a different cybernetic movement, a cybernetically positive movement of ceasing to feed back the social circle and rather stop nourishing it and taking its forces away.

Ingratitude is a cyberpositive way out of the circle. It can take two routes: the one of the self-serving greed, which is the ingratitude of one's own - embrace ingratitude myself - and the one of making sure the other is not compelled or fully unable to reciprocate - forcing ingratitude on the other. These two ways involve some kind of immunity, or some kind of anonymity; say, I can escape unnoticed with the money or I can place the money unnoticed in someone else's pocket. I can force my immunity from the Maussian circle of gratitude - and become anonymous and no longer part of a social identity - or I can force a circumscribed immunity on the other. To be sure, the latter is not to tell the other to escape her responsibility to reciprocate because this would amount to an ingratitude of one's own. Rather, to promote the ingratitude of the other is to make sure reciprocation is not even considered - typically because the gift itself was anonymous. In both cases, anonymity brings about a cyberpositive circuit - either as unbound accumulation or as infinite responsibility.


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