Structuralism, basketball, and gift circles

Structuralism was a movement that began in the 1950’s and ushered in a new we look and understand linguistics, anthropology, literature studies, sociology.

It basically says that the structure of the whole influences the parts and where it ends up. It says that there is an external architecture separate from the individuals/elements/parts that influences how everything behaves and that can give a deep understanding of the workings of the system.

So applied to basketball structuralism would say that the offensive and defensive systems a team uses leads to how different players score, assist, rebound,steal, block and defend. Different offensive systems lead to different roles for players, and hence different stats they will get.

In this perspective of basketball just looking at individuals and how good they are will not give a good understanding of how a basketball team will do. One also has to understand the structure that guides how they will interrelate.

The way players end up playing emerges from the structures on the court.

From a structuralist perspective the way people are interlinked will affect the economic system and how it plays out. People can be linked up in networks that resemble trees, or circles, or tribes. Each different network should have different types of economic behavior emergent.

A gift economy will have different emergent properties depending on the structures around.

In the structuralist perspective how generous people are in a economy would not just be a property of the individuals but also of the structural qualities of the social system.

So a the circle structure of a gift circle will have different economic behavior than that of the structures of the Really really free markets where people set up stands and everything is free. And something that happens in the project will have different emergent properties.

The number of people in a gift circle creates a different structural dynamics – just like different numbers of a basketball team. And the openness of a gift circle will also lead to quite different dynamics in the gifting circle. Openning a gift circle to flows of people from the community creates this wider mesh network that causes certain types of economic behavior to emerge.

My intuition is that the circle structure allows a certain type of circular flow to happen that leads to flow closure that is important for helping a community achieve balance and harmony. I havent quite put my finger on what that is yet though.


Sometimes people say we should work on ourselves in order to shift the world. From a structuralist perspective its important too to look at the structures we are embedded in, and to change those too, because that will affect how we and everyone will behave.


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