Friendships are expensive, assuming you give a damn, it takes up energy, patience, and an emotional reserve within us. For some reason, losing a friendship feels like losing on a good investment, and we become even more cautious who we give our time and sympathies to.
Friendships are also financial extras; going to that gym class and that cafe requires an expense. We exchange money to spend time with our friends.
Unfortunately, not all friendships are reciprocal. You may spend hours listening to someone's rants about their work and life, and in turn not be invited for their wedding. We start to wonder, are friendships transactional, political, and some what Machiavellian as well?
Derrida posits that friendships are political, and he first suggests that no relationship is devoid of politics, and true altruism is the realm of God. A "political friendship" immediately brings to mind an economic and emotional transaction. The term "politics" come from Greek - the state of government, or the science of the affairs of the state. Derrida, in his paradoxical fashion of writing, refers to the breaking down of friendships in the political realm, that "O my friends, there is no friend.", only common interests - a belief held in international realism in foreign affairs today.
What of personal friends? Modern social science writers study friendships as "political" in the personal realm. On the macro, we have study of networks and friendships as class-propagating, we are more likely to make friends within our class circles. On the micro, feminists study how friendships in the LGBTQ community form support and reliance, how foreign expat women form friendship alliances in foreign lands. They are political, because like a gift-economy, "feelings" are exchanged for interests. The very reason why we feel betrayed, or disappointed when a friend doesn't give us the Return of Investment we expect from them.
Does this mean there is no humanity in it all? I don't think so. Just because some thing is exchanged in a gift economy, means that it is cold and economic. The affecting qualities of friendships, how one feels about this exchange, if sincere and out of care for the other, is what sustains this gift-economy. In politics, "friendships" refer to strategic alliances, but even so within the corridors of power, affectation kinship forms.
What makes 2 individuals "click"? It might be common interests, or simple sharing a similar worldview. Yet, friendships based on similarities alone is the sketch work to the full oil painting. The inexplicable quality of friendship transcend power relations, exchange and even gifts. The word we are searching for is sincerity and commitment - much is based on choice. You choose to invest time in this person, not expecting that an individual will betray you. You choose to spend resources to help a friend in need, not considering your return of investment. However as ties become thicker, the strain of giving one-sided takes a toll only when the other person is insincere, cynical and selfish. A gift economy breaks down when it becomes less reciprocal - it can be unequal in material goods or services but if each gives what they can most afford, it is the thought and sentiment that is exchanged rather than the physical thing itself.
That's why some people, especially of the older generation, argue that money buys you friends but not affection. It hints towards an unequal exchange of sincerity, the best one can give within the circumstances they are in. To withhold any or everything is the very thing that politicised friendships, breaks a return to investment. It iteratively regresses.
Friendships, the ones I recognise, are not political, they are mutually enriching, beneficial and self-reinforcing. Any time this precarious state choose to cease, and when individual ambitions and self-interests come to play, it stops becoming a gift-economy, and transforms into a transaction of interests. My heart goes to those who give because they expect something in return - acceptance, belonging, recognition, to prove their worth - and those who endless take - to hurt before they get hurt, to fill an endless greed.