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

Beyond Necessity

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

Adam Smith

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), ...

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