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Burning Man’s ‘Gift Economy’


by Andrew Stelzer

No commerce is allowed at Burning Man.  It’s one of the most unusual economic structures in the world–a ‘gift economy’.  Making Contact producer Andrew Stelzer’s been there, and sat down with Larry Harvey, the festival’s founder, to find out how it all works.


Interview with Burning Man Founder Larry Harvey

by Andrew Stelzer

The full length interview with Burning Man founder Larry Harvey, discussing the roots and details of how the festivals’ ‘gift economy’ works.

Check out the full show:

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This past holiday season, charitable organizations were hit with the troubling combination of increased need and dwindling resources. But in hard times, people find ways to take care of themselves, and each other.   On this edition, we continue our series “How We Survive”, a look into how communities around the U.S. are responding to the economic crisis. This week… people meet each others needs, without charity, or even exchanging a dollar.

Author: Kwan

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  1. Seriously, what’s the point of “Web exclusive” for Larry’s interview. We listen to podcasts on thing called iPod and iPhones and we use iTunes to get them. Listening on computer doesn’t make sense.

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  2. Great insights from Harvey – the gift as a “bearer of being”
    I was at my first Burn last year and my friend and I came away
    with the understanding that at root Burning Man is an environment
    designed to call forth being, It is a gift in itself and I was reminded of it by Mr. Harvey charaterizing a gift that way.

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  3. actually Shital, NOT everyone is brainwashed into getting an ipod, iphone, and itunes. sounds like you’re bragging at the fact that you’re just a sheep out of a herd. millions of people just go to a website at home and press play, no need for i anything. open your mind please. btw, did you go to weymouth high school Shital?

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  4. am totally new at this,
    but at the very top of this page
    it states: “Download mp3 of Full Show ‘..”
    and: “Sign up to receive our weekly show by email or podcast.”.
    maybe that is what you arelooking for.
    “if everyone shared, there would be lack or want”
    —sant thakar singh.

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  5. Larry’s web exclusive reaches a larger audience than strictly catering to the ipod/iphone community. Technology if utilized should be used in an inclusive manner as was done.

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  6. Why Web when iPods, iPhones, and iTunes carry it? Well, silly person Shital Shah, it’s because some of us don’t or won’t have iProducts, and the Web, like radio and TV, is a -broadcast- medium, not an exclusive iMedium for those who love only Apple. Seriously.

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  7. The point is that not everyone has an ipod or iphone, or uses itunes. I listen to most of my music on the computer because I spend many hours of the day on it.

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  8. Excuse me, Shital Shah, not everyone can afford an iPod and iPhone.

    Thanks for the webcast.

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  9. It has been 5 years since I’ve attended Burning Man and hearing Harvey speak, I know I must go back. I’m reminded of the historical legacy of desert prophets- certainly the playa is a place of conceptual fertility and awakening.

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  10. While iPods (including the iPhone) can handle podcasts, there are many other devices which can also handle them. Podcasts are not and never have been an Apple proprietary technology. It is instead an open standard which Apple happens to do an excellent job supporting. It is plenty easy to listen to a podcast on a computer. That said, a single-episode podcast is a pretty silly idea. I think what Shital is trying to propose is that having it be web only doesn’t make sense when there are other competing technologies. If you care about being inclusive, then supporting a couple would make sense.

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  11. Another headline on this page reads “comments to Burning mans gift economy”, and everyone is talking about that company and the products that they have proliferated into the mainstream.

    The Playa gifted to me a different perspective on life, and I will always be grateful for that, as well as a better person!

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  12. When the City comes together, the great gift is the amazing work everyone does – their creativity – working all year long in preparation – in putting together the infrastructure and just amazing art, from the sublime to the most powerful statements. And then taking it all down, departing and leaving the Playa to its own designs. And we who participate in this get a great satisfaction – spiritual, emotional, relaxing. A lot of us indeed try to take the gifting beyond the City and influence others – in being nice, thoughtful or instructive. My camp, Earth Guardians, does this via the backcountry ethic of Leave No Trace, using our website for reaching out, and in partnership with the Leave No Trace non-profit organization. This is one of the gifting aspects Larry alluded to, non-profits as gift givers. It is really intriguing how gifting in Burning Man and beyond has evolved. What shall the future bring…?

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  13. thank you for posting! good listen.

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  14. well said larry, people have to go and experience the energetic good vibe of the gift, whether it be an art car ride to medics, or hula hoops for all to enjoy. stop dissecting,. and ENJOY THE VIBE

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