Thisessay is a critical analysis of MarcelMauss’ The Gift findings and theoriesabout the honor, gift, and concept of “pure” or “free” gifts in theabsence of an agenda. However The Giftreceived a lot of criticism when it seems confronted with some of the assumptionsincompatible with modern-practices. Though focusing on ancient societies, andtrying to show it in the whole essay in a balanced way, how can we use Mauss’ideas permanently when analyzing certain aspects of economic systems andsharing gifts in modern times?Accordingto Mauss, there are “three obligations: to give, to receive, to reciprocate.” (50)However, I find it is useful to understandthe meaning of “potlatch itself, so typical aphenomenon, and at the same time so characteristic of these tribes, Melanesianand Polynesian is none other than the system of gifts exchanged.” (Mauss45) which includesmore auctioning activities, receiving and features prominently, in the texture,and how it is the same. We can follow the social significance of generosity andthe obligation of the wealth. We can also see criticism denouncing theories thatenclose the concepts of ‘free’ gifts.
Maussexplores our commitments to the gifts and, most importantly, to the ideals thatare offered, whether they are equal to orgreater than the value received. Withmost practices and the rituals of giving gifts to an array of communities, as “itis not individuals but collectivities that impose obligations of exchange”(Mauss 6) practicing the gifts andmotives behind them could vary. Continually changing, Mauss persists for us, a constant resumption ofthe responsibility to offer the same gifts.
The worth of the return gift is imperative in order to maintain associationsamongst all parties involved. Interestingly enough, Mauss says that, “evenwhen, in the gesture accompanying the transaction, there is only a polite fiction,formalism, and social deceit, and when really there is obligation and economicself-interest.” (4) Mauss’method of raising this through the examples of popularstories of the social consequences of these mistakes will serve to develop thereal-world features of these philosophies in context.
It also uses an original wordon the native language of the back of these connections, which are vital to understanding the original exchange of gifts ofsymbolic significance. As Mauss points out that “ina few places, the generosity of thesegifts is proof of the fertility of the young couple.” (78)Ifthere is a criticism I should have to provide for their attempts, it would bethe absence of reliable translations that Maussis sometimes guilty of when he evaluates words against other languages. Forinstance, in German terminology along with Hinduism, words can be compared to complications that are not located ina sense without re-evaluating these words. Much of theinformation requires a careful translation by the booklover to gain a complete consideration of theemblematic implications. Though, it must beillustrated that the attempts of Mauss’ simplytranslation of the symbolic source and the connotation behind the unknownwords, when it is necessary to distinguish between the “gift” ofclassification.
Ingiving the gifts, one could moreover explore the symbolic character ofgenerosity. Mauss provides an example of this from German communities, by observingthe custom of offering wedding gifts, “it is commonknowledge that men present themselves publicly by the conspicuous presentationof gifts. Generous contributions to a charity have always been a source ofprestige in the United States…especially…when individualsrather than corporations make such gestures.” (Mauss151)Generosityis a theme of the underlying moral intent inherent in the giving of the gifts. Ifwe consider the gift as the ethical contract, there should be significanteffects on the amount granted and why. Gifts with a higher value perceived inthe wrong context might indicate a false feeling to the recipient of the objector service provided. To give, to receive, to reciprocatedisplays a rudimentary supply of wealth dedicated to “flatter”the receiver.
It is possible that the “recipientputs himself in a position of dependence vis-à-vis” (Mauss 76) which means a challenge to greater mutual wealth. This offer is verydifferent from the generosity of certainfortune. It is the display that is designed to challenge the competitors.. It’sa matter of forcing a person to accept a giftthat they fear cannot be matched inreturn.
The social situation that was createdthrough the gift exchange is an essential element in the dialogue of the book.The impact of these concepts and theories,”mutual respect and reciprocating generosity”(Mauss106) continue toapply to the sociologists and anthropologists who continue to study it today.