Pictures of the Counterculture: Gifting and Sharing in the Plenty Paradigm

A. Allen Butcher, Denver, CO, June, 2016,,

With the extreme left and right campaigning in the presidential election, people have opened to both liberal and conservative views which would not have gotten media attention in the past. While the left snuggles with socialism, the right flirts with fascism, and this disunion between liberalism and conservatism is an old story which can be seen in the politics of Ancient Greece and Rome, and probably in earlier cultures as well.

The left-right dichotomy of today is expressed in many different ways in America’s culture wars. On the most basic level of ideals, perspectives are divided between the classic concepts of whether the glass is half-empty, which is the familiar pessimistic, scarcity paradigm, or whether it is half-full, which is the less well explored optimistic, plenty paradigm.

Imposed scarcity through taking and exchanging is essential to the monetary system because one cannot sell abundance. The alternative counterculture affirms instead the ideal of plenty through gifting and sharing, showing that in the plenty paradigm neither money nor the property system is needed. These are old ideas, yet they replay in every era of civilization, and in every generation, as though there were no escaping reoccurring themes in human culture.

In times when I have tried to make sense of the world, I have thought to try to see and understand the cultural innovations for gifting and sharing lifestyles over the millennia, which have developed in parallel with the dominant culture of taking and exchanging. Yet I could not find a comprehensive source telling that story, as what exists about gifting, sharing, and cooperative cultures is much like random dots on a timeline with no discernible pattern or lesson of history. So I resolved to write the story myself, seeking congruencies and correspondences over time that I could resolve into lessons of history.

Thirty-five years of experience and research now provides me with perspectives on the development of human society that I have made available in a new book to share with others who desire to know the counterculture, titled, “The Intentioneer’s Bible.”

“The Intentioneer’s Bible” is essentially world history from the perspective of gifting and sharing societies. This book provides a counter-point to the usual histories of the world which focus upon the dominant, First World culture, telling instead the stories of the alternative, Fourth World culture of cooperation, solidarity, and mutual aid.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then there are over 500 stories in this 1,100 page book of over half-a-million words, presenting interwoven stories of the two opposite yet linked worlds comprising “The Intentioneer’s Bible.” These stories describe the Fourth World based upon the plenty paradigm of gifting and sharing, versus the First World based upon the scarcity paradigm of taking and exchanging.

The First World is our familiar neo-liberal market economy, the Second World is state-controlled economies, and the Third World is the developing countries, while the Fifth World can be said to be terrorist states. In contrast with all of these, the Fourth World is comprised of small, more-or-less self-reliant countries, and of alternative cultures of cooperation and solidarity within much larger countries.

The pictures of the counterculture that arise from observing the points-of-light they create represents re-occurring themes in history, such as those of cooperation and solidarity involving people working together for mutual advantage rather than in competition. Following these stories through time creates a pattern of dots leading to pictures that we can understand today.

Among these dot-trails is one following the role of money and private property through the rise of civilization, while others comprise the pictures and stories of indigenous tribal societies, and still others follow the neo-tribal cultures that separate themselves from the dominant First World to join the Fourth World. Other dot-trails follow the role of children in society, and especially the story of women seeking to reestablish today the equality of the genders which people lived before the rise of the cultural hegemony of patriarchy.

In the past the goal of the counterculture was to separate as much as possible from the dominant culture. Following this idea the rural, self-reliant commune was the most effective method for realizing “The Communitarian Dream.” This social change strategy was followed by social reformers long before Christianity adopted the idea in the Early Christian Church, and in its later Catholic monastic and Protestant apostolic societies.

Beginning with the changes toward a secular society caused by the rise in the concentration of wealth among the First World economic elite, there developed the idea of the counterculture as leading social change toward an ever more effective method for separating from the dominant or main-stream culture. This method of social change is to learn to use the monetary system for building community among people.

The best such example today of social change through cultural innovation is the cohousing movement, which has been creating methods for engaging architects, builders, developers, lawyers, and even bankers and other financiers in the support for and construction of intentional community for the middle class! Community is not just for the poor, it is a lifestyle ideal which those with money can create for themselves, and help to create for others with fewer resources.

In the past the emphasis of the counterculture was communalism, or society without the use of money. Over time, experimentation with time-based economies eventually resulted in a break-through to the most effective non-monetary economy, which I named the “vacation-credit labor-sharing system” in order to emphasize the system’s motivation for working beyond a minimum number of hours of labor for earning vacation time. Much like how simple on-off electrical values create the incredible Internet, and how the simple idea of fractional-reserve banking creates our global monetary system, the solution for the communal economy is the simple idea of setting a “quota” of work hours required with anything done over that returning the personal reward of vacation time. Amazing how simple little things scale up to very big things!

Then came the idea of keeping only the land in communal ownership while all other property is private. This was a little better as in some ways community land trusts provide a good balance between the two economic paradigms of the First and Fourth Worlds, or dominant and alternative cultures.

Then came the cohousing movement in which there is no communal property at all, instead people share some of their private property with each other. Many people in the communities movements have been very surprised with how successful has been this model of community, involving labor-gifting in cohousing community as opposed to the labor-sharing of communal society. The same concept of labor-gifting is also found in the festival traditions of the Rainbow Family and Burning Man, the two attracting different social-economic classes yet creating similar festival cultures called “temporary autonomous zones.” Not only are people becoming more adept at redirecting the ideals, energies, and careers of professionals into support for the counterculture, yet also has the counterculture developed improved methods for working in cooperation and solidarity without the use of money.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s