• 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

Emotional Norms
Emotional norms

There is no finer excess in the world than gratitude

La Bruyère

Gratitude is a burden,

and one would happily shake off any burden


Modern gift-giving has been described as a highly specific interaction ritual – specific both in its assertiveness against the contrasting reality of market socialization and in its action logic, subjective imagery and normative references – which translates the pressures of cultural modernization into everyday behaviour and keeps them available for a moral economy. For this ritual, too, it is true that there is an old form of interaction which seemingly remains in force, but now it is knowledge which lends this form its currency in modern cultures, opening up the space of the symbolic order, setting in motion the form-play and the ...

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