• Summary
  • Contents
  • Subject index

We all give and receive gifts. But few of us reflect on the risks and uncertainties inherent to this form. For example, to give means to acquire power, to effect a symbolic exchange, to initiate ties and alliances, to convey social messages to others and to classify our own status. Gift-giving is also a device to register honour and shame, to show solidarity, to equalize and to create intimacy. This fascinating volume looks at the ambivalence of gift-giving; contemporary gift-giving, its motives, occasions and its rules; examines `sacrifice', `food-sharing' and `gift-giving' as those basic institutions upon which symbolic orders of `traditional' society rely; and considers the historical invention of hospitality, paving the

Towards an Anthropology of Giving
Towards an anthropology of giving

Our little phenomenology of gift-giving has sketched some initial insights into the moral economy of modern society. An apparently everyday form of interaction has turned out to be the nodal point of the moral vocabulary: we have spoken of reciprocity norms and recognition relationships, normative obligations and emotional ties, social appreciation and personal autonomy, but also of symbolic power effects, social asymmetries and wounded self-esteem, without adequately clarifying their place within the system as a whole. Once this aim is taken seriously and an attempt is made to retheorize gift-giving within the context of moral economy, it becomes necessary to include those wider dimensions that have obviously determined the (discursive) practice of giving and taking. Within ...

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