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
Chapter 9: Beyond Necessity
Those whose hearts never open to the feelings of humanity should (…) be shut out in the same manner, from the affections of all their fellow-creatures, and be allowed to live in the midst of society, as in a great desert, where there is nobody to care for them, or to enquire after them
Discourse concerning the duty to give thanks has a long history behind it. Already Plato counted ‘doing a good deed in return’ among the unwritten laws; Cicero and especially Seneca wrote long treatises on it. By the mid-seventeenth century, however, the pathos with which Thomas Aquinas still justified gratitudo as a virtue had long since had to make way for more sober considerations of expediency. In Leviathan (1651), ...