Mauss. The Gift.


Mind Map on Mauss. The Gift., created by d.a.szpotowicz on 03/26/2015.
Mind Map by d.a.szpotowicz, updated more than 1 year ago
Created by d.a.szpotowicz over 8 years ago

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Mauss. The Gift.


  • 3. The idea that 'all loans and repayments should cancel each other out' is at variance with the idea of long-term reciprocity discussed by Mauss.' Discuss 4. Compare and assess the interpretations of Marcel Mauss offered by AT LEAST TWO of the following: Jonathan Parry, James Laidlaw, Keith Hart, Marilyn Strathern  3. 'Fair Trade attempts to establish an ethical space outside the market. Yet seeing market and ethics as fundamentally opposed represents a misunderstanding of the idea of 'the gift.' Discuss.2.'The idea of the gift counters the image of a society whose members follow pre-established norms. It is thus liberatory rather than conservative.' Discuss.
  1. Marcel Mauss.
    1. 1872-1950. French.
      1. sociologist. nephew of Durkheim
        1. influenced Levi-Strauss
      2. devastated by WWI
        1. fought against anti-Semitism
      3. Magic. Sacrifice. Gift Exchange.
        1. The Gift.
          1. exchange as a 'social fact'
            1. (Durkheim came up with this term)
            2. Double corrective to Durkheim and Malinowski
              1. Durkheim: ‘cult of the individual’, collective actions of society. 'Cult of the individual' is actually a collective action of all individuals
                1. Mauss tries to offer a better account of how the individual relates to society than what you will get out of Durkheim or Malinowski . He thinks human beings are ‘up to things’ doing conscious, self-strategic, politically motivated things.
                2. Malinowski has a utilitarian notion of the universal human individual. Contradictions – person driven by biological needs but also idea that people are rational (contradictory thoughts)
                3. Social institutions (like the GIFT EXCHANGE) that declare themselves as voluntary actually have a mandatory, social force of compulsion. It’s embedded in society, socially produced, and have social institutions that are due to time and place
                  1. these exchanges are how humans figure out how to deal with each other in order not to kill each other
                    1. Example of West Coast potlatch.
                      1. Festival meetings in the winter, lots of exchanges of food, services, gifts, contracts etc. Lots of surplus wealth used up.
                        1. Very hierarchical.
                          1. Lots of surplus wealth used up
                            1. Copper objects important --> associated with salmon (staple and high-status food) and wealth
                              1. Flat sheets of copper almost like a coat of arms
                                1. The objects ‘call out’ to people at the potlatch to be covered in beautiful, expensive, woven blankets. You feed them, pay attention to them (almost like they were a Chief) then you give your copper object to the other person to annihilate them with luxury, to assert your wealth and status.
                                  1. Or the objects would simply be burned to again show how much surplus was had
                                    1. the need to return something is very oppressive if you are given a copper object of such great value.Can make you feel politically lower than the other Chief, etc.
                                  2. Copper objects considered a 'personhood'
                            2. the need to return something
                              1. Mauss - there is a hope in that, because humans can learn to be socially generous and re-distributed. He wanted to keep market exchange, but wanted to humanize it. He draws on the example of alternative methods of exchange.
                                1. Mis-reading the Gift
                                  1. historically one of the most misunderstood/misquoted essays in anthropology
                                    1. different kinds of political interest groups have tried to claim it for their own political standpoint, both on the right and left. Been a tug of war, with both parties trying to claim it for their own. -People understand Chris Gregory(wrote Gifts and Commodities) to write in Marxist way to look at gifts on one hand (connect people, alien objects. Only measured in qualitative terms)) and commodities on the other (alienable objects measured in quantitative terms). But Greg
                                      1. some people say there is an underlying human greed that explains it all ----> ‘all about political self-interest. (Potlatch chiefs having an ego, trying to be greedy…etc.)
                                        1. General conclusion is that there is no such thing as a gift, but that all of human life predicated on human political and social interest
                                    2. Marilyn Strathern "The Gender of the Gift" – radical critique of how we describe categories of analysis in society. All the terms wrong because they all carry too much Western baggage. (Ex. Papua New Guinea people have no category of nature, in opposed to category of culture. There is no distinction there.) So she says that any way you say anything, is labeled in a way that is too Western.
                                      1. People who followed her work followed the idea that there was a separate Western world and non-Western world. World is divided into two, gifts or commodities. Fenella says that’s wrong, a myth. (and not really arguable)
                                        1. Jonathan Parry says Mauss never intended us to divide societies between gift and commodities. Mauss was trying to say that division is fiction. All human social action always contain elements of both.
                                  2. Like Durkheim, is committed to bringing high standards of empirical knowledge to the field but didn’t do fieldwork
                                    1. Fragmentary theory of evidence. Mauss knows it’s a big stretch to offer this ambitious new social theory. He wants to give us a theory of ALL exchange. He offers fragments and says you see how I do with those… -he uses the famous example of the kula exchange – Trobriand Islands (bracelets and necklaces)
                                      1. Mauss managed to complete Malinowski’s analytical work for him… Mauss was great as an ethnographical analysis – Malinowski’s ideas were a bit inadequate. Continuing living/social structures happen by honouring the dead – through traditions and rituals. Funerals come to term with end of living life, but we can incorporate dead through living rituals.
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