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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

The Solidarity of Individualism
The solidarity of individualism

Modernity is the impossibility of standing on the spot


Let us try a little thought-experiment which, to borrow a concept from Robert Musil, enquires into the ‘sense of possibility’ within a form of socialization for which I would propose the paradoxical term ‘solidarity individualism’. This experiment may help to make a little more concrete the peculiar relationship that is beginning to develop between individualization and a concern with the public good. Is it possible, we might ask, to find empirical evidence that utilitarian individualism requires knowledge and motives which make an individualism of solidarity rich in prospects?

If, as a cumulative effect of modernization and its welfare-state cushioning, a form of social existence beyond ‘class and status group’ (Beck 1983) ...

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