Marcel Mauss The Gift Analysis

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Why do we give each other Gifts? Sociologist Marcel Mauss wrote “The Gift” in 1925 to analyze this question. He argued that the ritual of gift giving fulfills several key social obligations. Mauss believed that gift giving is an organising principle of social cohesion and act as social glue. For him gift giving is usually used to establish or strengthen an alliance or to achieve reconciliation. It is therefore a moral transaction connected to the individual or group relationships rather than an economic one. Mauss looked in detail at the structure of gift giving, outlining three inherent obligations. Firstly Mauss outlined the obligation to give gifts. He argued that we are obliged to give gifts in order to demonstrate our generosity and appear…show more content…
Matt is deciding who to buy a Christmas present. He chooses to buy one for an old friend Ellie because he wants to maintain this relationship if he didn’t buy her one, he might seem selfish and undeserving of respect. When she receive the present Ellie has a set of social obligations to follow she can’t pay too much attention to the price of the gift as this is a social, not economic transaction. She is obliged to accept the gift gracefully and reciprocate or else appear uncaring. Matt also buys his 14-year daughter Alina a christmas present. However, here he expects nothing in return as there is a clear social inequality in this relationship. So throughout the Christmas period gifts are given and received to maintain relationships and create new ones. Failing to follow social obligations leads to guilt, damaged reputations and changed social…show more content…
The anthropologist Raymond Firth, an expert on indigenous New Zealand culture, however, questioned the originality of the analysis and disputed Mauss’s interpretation of Maori customs and concepts. After the author’s death and the book’s publication in English in 1954, The Gift was criticized by a generation of anthropologists who were wary of the search for general laws, the progressive logic of evolutionism, and the method of comparative analysis. They argued that Mauss overemphasized similarities in institutions across cultures and ignored or downplayed differences, possibly as a result of his lack of fieldwork experience. More, they criticized Mauss for disapproving of the English anthropologist J. G. Frazer for presuming the universality of totemism (the practice of infusing a neutral object with sacredness as the symbol for a group of people) without evidence, while extending terms such as potlatch and mana (a spiritual force potentially attached to objects) to the institutions of societies where parallel, local concepts were lacking. Potlatch was a ceremonial feast practiced by Native American populations in Northwest North America that includes gifts to the guests; it was a means for the competitive display of wealth and prestige that even included the destruction of objects.Even though Mauss discussed self-aggrandizement and the
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