When one person builds something from start to finish, manifesting a dream into reality, that person breathes a certain life into it. It may not be life in the biological sense, but if enough personal attention goes into the making of a thing, that thing becomes more than just some inanimate object, useful but distant.
When people die, we say that they live on in our memories, but our memories live on in things. Jigsaw puzzles and ginger snaps remind me of my father’s father, buttermilk of my father’s mother. Salt and pepper shakers and the apple-shaped cookie jar at a certain rest stop in Vermont remind me of my mother’s mother, but for my maternal grandfather it will always be the retaining walls of U.S. Highway 46.
I agree with the above, and I'll add that the move towards impersonality is just as entrenched in government as it is in commerce. There are reasons for both, and it's not just the love of efficiency--having everything be personal relationships means that you're skunked if the people around you have you defined as low-status.
Any suggestions on how cultures tend toward stable patterns of mutual aid without also trapping people in bad relationships?