Nothing in Return? Distinctions between Gift and Commodity in Contemporary Societies

Benson, Michaela and Carter, Denise (2008) Nothing in Return? Distinctions between Gift and Commodity in Contemporary Societies. Anthropology in Action, 15 (3). pp. 1-7. ISSN 0967-201X

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According to Mauss’ seminal works, it was through obligations laid bare by the gift exchange process—the obligation to give, receive and reciprocate—that pre-modern societies were symbolically reproduced. Mauss’ distinction between those early societies and the encroaching capitalist world has led to questions about whether gift exchange can play a similar role in today’s highly individualised and impersonal contemporary societies. In addition, it has also stimulated a great deal of debate about the relationship between gifts and commodities. If, as many theorists suggest, commodities are a central feature of daily life in capitalist societies, there is the possibility of fluidity between gift and commodity. This invites several interesting questions about the forms and functions of exchange: what forms does exchange take in contemporary societies; what implications, if any, do these forms of exchange have for relationships in contemporary society; and, does gift exchange still have a function in society?

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Journal Article
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Anthropology in Action
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06 Jul 2021 16:20
Last Modified:
18 Sep 2023 01:56