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Marcel Mauss 1872-1950. Biography Born May 10, 1872, Epinal, France Died Feb. 10, 1950, Paris French Sociologist & Anthropologist Father of French anthropology.

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Presentation on theme: "Marcel Mauss 1872-1950. Biography Born May 10, 1872, Epinal, France Died Feb. 10, 1950, Paris French Sociologist & Anthropologist Father of French anthropology."— Presentation transcript:

1 Marcel Mauss

2 Biography Born May 10, 1872, Epinal, France Died Feb. 10, 1950, Paris French Sociologist & Anthropologist Father of French anthropology

3 Biography Nephew of Emile Durkheim Assisted Durkheim --notably “Suicide” Succeeded Durkheim as editor “The Sociological Year”

4 Career Professor of primitive religion at “Practical School of Higher Studies”, Paris Founded Ethnology Institute of the University of Paris (1925) Political activist, aligned himself with socialist leader Jean Jaurès

5 The Gift: The Form and Reason for Exchange in Archaic Societies “What rule of legality and self-interest, in societies of a backward or archaic type, compels the gift that has been received to be obligatorily reciprocated? What power resides in the object given that causes its recipient to pay it back?” (Mauss 1925)

6 The Gift: Three fields of obligation to give to receive to repay Gifts create relationships not only between individuals but between groups Relationships which take the form of “total prestations”

7 The Gift Obligation to give gifts Shows oneself as generous, and deserving of respect Obligation to receive them Shows respect to the giver and proves one's own generosity Obligation to return the gift Demonstrates that one's honor is - at least - equivalent to that of original giver

8 Gift-giving Creates a moral bond Competitive and strategic aspects of gift- giving: Giving more than competitors=Greater respect Gift-giving contests (potlatch), are common in ethnographic record Mauss lays foundation for theoretical understanding of the nature of social relations

9 Prestations “The Gift” is the supreme example of the study of “total social facts” A limited range of social phenomena seen as a totality “Prestations,” or systems of exchange In theory, voluntary and spontaneous In fact, obligatory

10 Importance of “The Gift” “the archaic form of exchange,” with its three obligations of giving, receiving, and repaying, is an aspect of almost all societies It maintains and strengthens social bonds: Cooperative Competitive Antagonistic

11 Importance of “The Gift” The objects “are never completely separated from the men who exchange them “The Gift” was the first systematic and comparative study of gift exchange First elaboration of the relation between patterns of exchange and social structure

12 The Gift Incest taboo is a rule of reciprocity Rather than biological fact about gene pools “The sole function of the incest taboo is not to forbid; it is set in place to ensure and found an exchange…” Exchange creates a system of communication

13 Contributions to Anthropology Influenced French: Sociologists Philosophers Psychologists toward ethnology Study of characteristics of various peoples and differences and relationships between them Strengthened link between psychology and anthropology

14 Anthropology: General Theory of Relationships History organizes data in relation to conscious expressions of social life Anthropology examines unconscious foundations of social life Anthropology will become a general theory of relationships

15 “If Friends make gifts, Gifts Make Friends” Marcel Mauss In order for social relationships to exist, we must exchange something whether it is: Communicative exchange of language Economic and/or ceremonial exchange of goods Or the exchange of spouses

16 Questions for Discussion What is a gift? What kinds of gifts are there? To whom do we give gifts? When do we give gifts? How do we give gifts? Why do we give gifts?

17 Questions for Discussion What are the consequences of not reciprocating? Are there bonds of obligation? What are they? Is there competitiveness involved in gift-giving? How do we feel when we haven’t received a gift of at least equal value? What if the gift returned is of higher value?

18 Questions for Discussion Why is giving gifts to children acceptable, but buying automobiles for college athletes forbidden? What if a surrogate mother decides to keep her baby? When should blood be donated or sold? Should housewives/husbands be paid?

19 Questions for Discussion Why can you legally buy a massage, but not the sexual services of a prostitute? Do you agree that “He who steals my purse steals trash…/But he that filches from me my good name/Robs me of that which not enriches him/And makes me poor indeed”? How much would you pay to restore a tarnished reputation?

20 IS THERE SUCH A THING AS A FREE GIFT?


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