An Article Review on Mauss' the Gift: the Form and Reason for Exchange in Archaic Societies

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  • Topic: Marcel Mauss, Property, Gift
  • Pages : 2 (569 words )
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  • Published : August 30, 2006
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Marcel Mauss (1925) elucidates the deep significance of gifts and gift giving in the first chapter of The Gift. His paper explores the exchange of gifts with reference to Polynesian societies and other primitive societies. This paper will briefly review his arguments and discuss some critiques that arose from his ideas. In Polynesian groups, gift giving is ruled by the concept of mana. Mana is the honour and authority bestowed by wealth (p.8). A person is obliged to reciprocate so as not to lose their mana and to maintain relationships between clans. The spirit in the gift, which creates a hold upon the giver, desires to come back to its origin (p.11). Thus, the recipient gives the gift back to the owner or gives something of equal or greater value than the owner's property (p. 12). Despite the gift being inactive, the obligation to give, to receive and to offer a counter-gift remains. The obligations to give and receive are both important. A person is obliged to offer and to accept because it serves as a constant exchange of camaraderie. To refuse a gift or even to refuse to give would mean to reject the union between two parties (p. 13). These obligations are of equal importance because it can create and maintain or destroy alliances (p.13). The theory of contract sacrifice for Mauss is simply the form of offering given by man to the early inhabitants of their land and/or to their gods (p. 14 – 17). Sacrificing things to gods is the equivalent of purchasing the right over the present property of man (p. 16). Donating to humans and gods is also a way of exchanging peace and driving out evil spirits (p.17). Therefore, it is risky not to exchange with them. Mauss' point of view in gift giving stress the fact that there is no free gift, he states that there are motives behind every gift and the beneficiary should reciprocate (p. 12 – 13). One problem is that since the idea of reciprocity is to prevent the pain of losing mana;(p. 8) the concept of exchanging gifts...
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