In Debt: The First 5,000 Years, anthropologist and economist David Graeber proposes a concept of “everyday communism” which he defines, when analyzing peasant lives as “The peasants’ visions of communistic brotherhood did not come out of nowhere. They were rooted in real daily experience: of the maintenance of common fields and forests, of everyday cooperation, and neighborly solidarity. It is out of such homely experience of everyday communism that grand mythic visions are always built”. Also, “society was rooted above in the ‘love and amity’ of friends and kin, and it found expression in all those forms of everyday communism (helping neighbors with chores, providing milk or cheese for old widows) that were seen to flow from it”.
Closer to home, he gives this example: “If someone fixing a broken water pipe says, ‘Hand me the wrench,’ his co-worker will not, generally speaking, say, ‘And what do I get for it?’ … The reason is simple efficiency…: if you really care about getting something done, the most efficient way to go about it is obviously to allocate tasks by ability and give people whatever they need to do them.” Moreover, we tend to ask and give without thinking for things like asking directions, or
“…small courtesies like asking for a light, or even for a cigarette. It seems more legitimate to ask a stranger for a cigarette than for an equivalent amount of cash, or even food; in fact, if one has been identified as a fellow smoker, it’s rather difficult to refuse such a request. In such cases—a match, a piece of information, holding the elevator—one might say the “from each” element is so minimal that most of us comply without even thinking about it. Conversely, the same is true if another person’s need—even a stranger’s—is particularly spectacular or extreme: if he is drowning, for example. If a child has fallen onto the subway tracks, we assume that anyone who is capable of helping her up will do so.”
The thing which makes it “every day” is this argument: “communism is the foundation of all human sociability. It is what makes society possible. There is always an assumption that anyone who is not actually an enemy can be expected to act on the principle of “from each according to their abilities”, at least to an extent, which is to say, the extent just described.
He proposes studying these practices and says that the “sociology of everyday communism is a potentially enormous field, but one which, owing to our peculiar ideological blinders, we have been unable to write about because we have been largely unable to see it”. Nevertheless, Graeber’s ideas were later discussed by journalist Richard Swift as being a type of “a reciprocal economy”—which makes use of the “ethic of reciprocity” or the “Golden Rule“.
From: Debt: The First Five Thousand Years
See also: Primitive communism, Original affluent society, and Gift economy