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Gifts, commodities, and social relations: A Maussian view of exchange

Abstract

Sociologists have drawn on anthropological studies of gift exchange systems to help develop models of exchange in social life. This paper presents a reconsideration of the relatively neglected Maussian view of gift and commodity exchange, drawing on both Mauss'sThe Gift and recent work by anthropologists who have extended his ideas. The Maussian model illustrates the partiality of some sociological models of exchange by showing that people, objects, and social relations form a whole that is created and recreated in different ways when people transact with each other in gift and commodity relations. The paper concludes with an illustration of the utility of Mauss's model, showing how it can extend recent sociological discussions of the social meaning of objects.

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Carrier, J. Gifts, commodities, and social relations: A Maussian view of exchange. Sociol Forum 6, 119–136 (1991). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01112730

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Key words

  • exchange
  • Marcel Mauss
  • gifts
  • commodities
  • social nature of objects