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Encyclopedia > Marcel Mauss

Marcel Mauss (May 10, 1872February 10, 1950) was a French sociologist best known for his role in elaborating on and securing the legacy of his uncle Émile Durkheim and the Année Sociologique. His most famous work is The Gift, on reciprocity and gift economies among "uncivilized peoples". May 10 is the 130th day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar (131st in leap years). ... 1872 (MDCCCLXXII) was a leap year starting on Monday (see link for calendar) of the Gregorian calendar or a leap year starting on Wednesday of the 12-day-slower Julian calendar. ... February 10 is the 41st day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar. ... 1950 (MCML) was a common year starting on Sunday (link will take you to calendar). ... Sociology is the study of the social lives of humans, groups and societies. ... Emile Durkheim. ... LAnnée Sociologique was a sociology journal founded in 1898 by Émile Durkheim, who also served as its editor. ... The Gift is a short book by Marcel Mauss best known for being one of the earliest and most important studies of reciprocity and gift exchange. ...

Contents


Background

Mauss was born in Epinal to a Jewish family, and studied philosophy at Bordeaux, where Émile Durkheim was teaching at the time and agregated in 1893. Instead of taking the usual route of teaching at a lycee, however, Mauss moved to Paris and took up the study of comparative religion and particularly Sanskrit. His first publication in 1896 marked the beginning of a prolific career that would produce several landmarks in the sociological literature. Épinal is a commune of northeastern France, préfecture (capital) of the Vosges département. ... The word Jew ( Hebrew: יהודי) is used in a wide number of ways, but generally refers to a follower of the Jewish faith, a child of a Jewish mother, or someone of Jewish descent with a connection to Jewish culture or ethnicity and often a combination... New city flag (traditional tri-crescent) City coat of arms Motto: The fleur-de-lis alone rules over the moon, the waves, the castle, and the lion Location Coordinates Time Zone CET (GMT +1) Administration Country France Région Aquitaine Département Gironde (33) Intercommunality Urban Community of Bordeaux Mayor... In France, the agrégation is a civil service competitive examination for some positions in the public education system. ... High School also refers to the highest form of classical riding, High School Dressage. ... City flag City coat of arms Motto: Fluctuat nec mergitur (Latin: Tossed by the waves, she does not sink) Location Coordinates Time Zone CET (GMT +1) Administration Country France Région ÃŽle-de-France Département Paris (75) Subdivisions 20 arrondissements Mayor Bertrand Delanoë  (PS) (since 2001) City Statistics Land... Comparative religion is a field of religious studies that analyzes interpretive differences of common themes and ideas among the worlds religions. ... The Sanskrit language ( , ) is a classical language of India, a liturgical language of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism, and one of the 22 official languages of India. ... 1896 (MDCCCXCVI) was a leap year starting on Wednesday (see link for calendar). ...


Like many members of Annee Sociologique Mauss was attracted to socialism, particularly that espoused by Jean Jaures. He was particularly active in the events of the Dreyfus affair and towards the end of the century he helped edit such left-wing papers as le Populaire, l'Humanite and le Mouvement Socialiste, the last in collaboration with Georges Sorel. LAnn e Sociologique was a sociology journal founded in 1898 by Emile Durkheim, who also served as its editor. ... Socialism refers to a broad array of doctrines or political movements that envisage a socio-economic system in which property and the distribution of wealth are subject to social control. ... Jean Jaurès Jean Léon Jaurès (September 3, 1859 - July 31, 1914) was a French Socialist leader. ... The Dreyfus Affair was a political scandal which divided France during the 1890s and early 1900s. ... LHumanité (Humanity), formerly the daily newspaper of the French Communist Party (PCF), was the only French newspaper owned by a political party. ... Georges Eugène Sorel (2 November 1847-29 August 1922) was a French philosopher and theorist of revolutionary syndicalism. ...


Mauss took up a chair in the 'history of religion and uncivilized peoples' at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes in 1901. It was at this time that he began drawing more and more on ethnography, and his work began increasingly to look like what we would today call anthropology. The École Pratique des Hautes Études is a university in Paris, France. ... 1901 (MCMI) was a common year starting on Tuesday (see link for calendar) of the Gregorian calendar (or a common year starting on Wednesday of the 13-day-slower Julian calendar). ... Anthropology (from the Greek word , human or person) consists of the study of humanity (see genus Homo). ...


The years of World War I were absolutely devastating for Mauss. Many of his friends and colleagues died in the war, and Durkheim died shortly before its end. The postwar years were also difficult politically for Mauss. Durkheim had made changes to school curriculums across France, and after his death a backlash against his students began. Like many other followers of Durkheim, Mauss took refuge in administration, securing Durkheim's legacy by founding institutions such as l'Institut Français de Sociologie (1924) and l'Institut d'Ethnologie in 1926. In 1931 he took up the chair of Sociology at the College de France. He actively fought against anti-semitism and racial politics both before and after World War II. He died in 1950. Combatants Allied Powers: British Empire France Italy Russia United States Central Powers: Austria-Hungary Bulgaria Germany Ottoman Empire Commanders Ferdinand Foch Georges Clemenceau Victor Emmanuel III Luigi Cadorna Armando Diaz Nicholas II Aleksei Brusilov Herbert Henry Asquith Douglas Haig John Jellicoe Woodrow Wilson John Pershing Wilhelm II Paul von Hindenburg... 1926 (MCMXXVI) was a common year starting on Friday (link will take you to calendar). ... 1931 (MCMXXXI) was a common year starting on Thursday (link is to a full 1931 calendar). ... The Coll ge de France is a higher education teaching and research establishment located in Paris, France. ... The Eternal Jew: 1937 German poster. ... Combatants Major Allied powers: United Kingdom Soviet Union United States Republic of China and others Major Axis powers: Nazi Germany Italy Japan and others Commanders Winston Churchill Joseph Stalin Franklin Roosevelt Harry Truman Chiang Kai-Shek Adolf Hitler Benito Mussolini Hideki Tojo Casualties Military dead: 17,000,000 Civilian dead...


Theoretical Views

In his classic work The Gift, Mauss argued that gifts are never "free". Rather, human history is full of examples that gifts give rise to reciprocal exchange. The famous question that drove his inquiry into the anthropology of the gift was: "What power resides in the object given that causes its recipient to pay it back?" (1990:3). The answer is simple: the gift is a "total prestation", imbued with "spiritual mechanisms", engaging the honour of both giver and receiver (the term "total prestation" or "total social fact" (fait social total) was coined by his student Maurice Leenhardt after Durkheim's social fact). Such transactions transcend the divisions between the spiritual and the material in a way that according to Mauss is almost "magical". The giver does not merely give an object but also part of himself, for the object is indissolubly tied to the giver: "the objects are never completely separated from the men who exchange them" (1990:31). Because of this bond between giver and gift, the act of giving creates a social bond with an obligation to reciprocate on part of the recipient. To not reciprocate means to lose honour and status, but the spiritual implications can be even worse: in Polynesia, failure to reciprocate means to lose mana, one's spiritual source of authority and wealth. Mauss distinguished between three obligations: giving - the necessary initial step for the creation and maintenance of social relationships; receiving, for to refuse to receive is to reject the social bond; and reciprocating in order to demonstrate one's own liberality, honour and wealth. The Gift is a short book by Marcel Mauss best known for being one of the earliest and most important studies of reciprocity and gift exchange. ... In positivist sociology, a social fact is an abstraction external to the individual which constrains that individuals actions. ... Maurice Leenhardt, (1878 in Montauban, 1954 in Paris) was a French pastor and ethnologist specialising in the Kanak people of New Caledonia. ... Carving from the ridgepole of a Māori house, ca 1840 This article is about the wider region in the Pacific. ... Mana is a traditional term that refers to a concept among the speakers of Oceanic languages, including Melanesians, Polynesians, and Micronesians. ...


An important notion in Mauss' conceptualisation of gift exchange is what Gregory (1982, 1997) refers to as "inalienability". In a commodity economy there is a strong distinction between objects and persons through the notion of private property. Objects are sold, meaning that the ownership rights are fully transferred to the new owner. The object has thereby become "alienated" from its original owner. In a gift economy, however, the objects that are given are inalienated from the givers; they are "loaned rather than sold and ceded". It is the fact that the identity of the giver is invariably bound up with the object given that causes the gift to have a power which compels the recipient to reciprocate. Because gifts are inalienable they must be returned; the act of giving creates a gift-debt that has to be repaid. Gift exchange therefore leads to a mutual interdependence between giver and receiver. According to Mauss, the "free" gift that is not returned is a contradiction because it cannot create social ties. Following the Durkheimian quest for understanding social cohesion through the concept of solidarity, Mauss's argument is that solidarity is achieved through the social bonds created by gift exchange. Look up alienation, alienate in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... Solidarity (Polish: Solidarność; full name: Independent Self-governing Trade Union Solidarity — Niezależny Samorządny Związek Zawodowy Solidarność) is a Polish trade union federation founded in September 1980 at the Gdańsk Shipyards, and originally led by Lech Wałęsa. ...


Critiques

Mauss's views on the nature of gift exchange have not been without their critics. Testart (1998) for example argues that there are "free" gifts, such as passers-by giving money to beggars in e.g. a large Western city. Donor and receiver do not know each other and are unlikely to ever meet again. In this context, the donation certainly creates no obligation on the side of the beggar to reciprocate; neither the donor nor the beggar have such an expectation. Moreover, the transaction does not establish a relationship between the two, much less a mutual interdependence . Testart also suggests that there are different kinds of obligations: a) feelings of obligation, e.g. created by having been invited for dinner and having a feeling that one should reciprocate; b) social obligations, meaning that the social context obliges one to reciprocate, and that a failure to do so would not only affect one's relationship with the giver but also affect one's reputation in general; and c) legal obligations, as established through a legal contract. Testart argues that only the latter can actually be enforced. He feels that Mauss overstated the magnitude of the obligation created by social pressures, particularly in his description of the potlatch amongst North American Indians. A potlatch was a ceremony among certain American Indian tribes, including tribes on the Pacific Northwest coast of the United States and the Canadian province of British Columbia. ... Native Americans (also Indians, Aboriginal Peoples, American Indians, First Nations, Alaskan Natives, Amerindians, or Indigenous Peoples of America) are the indigenous inhabitants of The Americas prior to the European colonization, and their modern descendants. ...


Another example of a non-reciprocal "free" gift is provided by Laidlaw (2000). He describes the social context of Indian Jain renouncers, a group of itinerant celibate renouncers living an ascetic life of spiritual purification and salvation. The principle of non-violence influences the diet of Jain renouncers and compels them to avoid preparing food as this could potentially involve violence against microscopic organisms. Since Jain renouncers do not work, they rely on food donations from lay families within the Jain community. However, the former must not appear to be having any wants or desires, and only very hesitantly and apologetically receive the food prepared by the latter. Laidlaw describes how the renouncers produce litanies of refusal when receiving the food and never show thankfulness or appreciation for it. In order not to appear as beggars, they visit families at random, attempting not to create relationships with a family by returning there regularly. What is given is not considered a gift by either donors or receivers, and since appearing as having any wants would spoil the Jain renouncer's spiritual purity there absolutely must not be anything given in return. Consequently, what Jain renouncers receive is supposed to be a spontaneous free gift without any strings attached, and the elaborate culturally constructed process surrounding this procedure is meant to ensure that this is what happens. JAIN is an activity within the Java Community Process, developing APIs for the creation of telephony (voice and data) services. ...


In his argumentation, Laidlaw employs Derrida's four criteria for a "free gift": Jacques Derrida Jacques Derrida (July 15, 1930 – October 8, 2004) was an Algerian-born French literary critic and philosopher of Jewish descent, considered the first to develop deconstruction. Positioning Derridas thought Derrida had a significant effect on continental philosophy and on literary theory, particularly through his long-time...

  • There is no reciprocity
  • The recipient must not recognise the gift as a gift or himself as the recipient of a gift
  • The donor must not recognise the gift, either
  • The thing itself cannot appear as a "gift"

Laidlaw argues that food donations received by Jain renouncers fulfil all four criteria. They are a non-reciprocated free gift, although they aren't a very altruistic one since such donations are the "paradigmatic religious good deed" (punya), and the local lay families are very eager to make them regularly.


Laidlaw's example poses a further challenge to Mauss's definition of the gift. The gift itself is alienated from the original owner in two ways: first, it is given without any expectation to receive it or an equivalent object in return; second, what is given is not of permanence. Cooking something for another person may or may not create obligations, but since the object given is necessarily consumed in the process it becomes questionable whether there remains an "indissoluble bond of a thing with its original owner" (Gregory, 1982:18). Similarly, money given to beggars in a context where giver and receiver are aliens (as in Testart's example) appears to be fully alienated from the former, particularly since money - in contrast to other objects - often (albeit not always) has no inherent personal qualities.


"Free" gifts therefore challenge all three aspects of the Maussian notion of the gift: it can be questioned whether

  • there is an inalienable bond between giver and the object that is given
  • the gift necessarily creates an obligation to reciprocate, or
  • gift exchange forms a mutual interdependence between the parties involved.

Legacy

While Mauss is known for several of his own works - most notably his masterpiece Essai sur le Don ('The Gift') - much of his best work was done in collaboration with members of the Annee Sociologique, including Durkheim himself (Primitive Classification), Henri Hubert (Outline of a General Theory of Magic and Essay on the Nature and Function of Sacrifice), Paul Fauconnet (Sociology) and others. The Gift is a short book by Marcel Mauss best known for being one of the earliest and most important studies of reciprocity and gift exchange. ... LAnn e Sociologique was a sociology journal founded in 1898 by Emile Durkheim, who also served as its editor. ... Emile Durkheim. ... Henri Hubert (Paris 23 June 1872 - 25 May 1927) was an archaeologist and sociologist of comparative religions who is best known for his work on the Celts and his collaboration with Marcel Mauss and other members of the Annee Sociologique. ... Paul Fauconnet (1874-1938) was a French sociologist who is best known as a contributor to the Annee Sociologique. ...


Like many prominent French academics, Mauss did not train a great number of students. Nonetheless, many anthropologists claim to have followed in his footsteps, most notably Claude Lévi-Strauss. The essay on The Gift is the origin for anthropological studies of reciprocity. His analysis of the Potlatch has been used by many interested in gift economies and Open Source software, although this latter use sometimes differs from Mauss's original formulation. Claude Lévi Strauss Claude Lévi-Strauss (IPA pronunciation ) born November 28, 1908, is a French anthropologist who became one of the twentieth centurys greatest intellectuals by developing structuralism as a method of understanding human society and culture. ... This is a disambiguation page — a navigational aid which lists other pages that might otherwise share the same title. ... A potlatch was a ceremony among certain American Indian tribes, including tribes on the Pacific Northwest coast of the United States and the Canadian province of British Columbia. ... A gift economy is an economic system in which the prevalent mode of exchange is for goods and services to be given without explicit agreement upon a quid pro quo, or the concept of a favor for a favor in the Latin language. ... Open source refers to projects that are open to the public and which draw on other projects that are freely available to the general public. ...


See also

Anthropology (from the Greek word , human or person) consists of the study of humanity (see genus Homo). ... Structural anthropology had its heyday in the 1960s and 1970s. ... Structuralism is best known as school in humanities, but it is actually an approach in academic disciplines in general, that explores the relationships between some principal elements, seen to be fundamental for language, literature, etc, upon which some higher mental, linguistic, social, cultural etc. ... A gift economy is an economic system in which the prevalent mode of exchange is for goods and services to be given without explicit agreement upon a quid pro quo, or the concept of a favor for a favor in the Latin language. ... Look up Kula in Wiktionary, the free dictionary This page is about the ceremonial exchange system Kula. ... Claude Lévi Strauss Claude Lévi-Strauss (IPA pronunciation ) born November 28, 1908, is a French anthropologist who became one of the twentieth centurys greatest intellectuals by developing structuralism as a method of understanding human society and culture. ... Emile Durkheim. ... Alienation is a process whereby people come to be estranged from the society around them. ...

Bibliography

  • Essai sur la nature et la fonction du sacrifice, (with Henri Hubert) 1898.
  • La sociologie: objet et méthode, (with Paul Fauconnet) 1901.
  • De quelques formes primitives de classification, (with Durkheim) 1902.
  • Esquisse d'une théorie générale de la magie, (with Henri Hubert) 1902.
  • Essai sur le don, 1924.
  • Sociologie et anthropologie, (selected writings) 1950.

The works of Marcel Mauss are available free of charge (in french) in the "Les classiques des sciences sociales" web site, inside the "Les auteurs classiques" collection. Henri Hubert (Paris 23 June 1872 - 25 May 1927) was an archaeologist and sociologist of comparative religions who is best known for his work on the Celts and his collaboration with Marcel Mauss and other members of the Annee Sociologique. ... 1898 (MDCCCXCVIII) was a common year starting on Saturday (see link for calendar) of the Gregorian calendar (or a common year starting on Monday of the 12-day-slower Julian calendar). ... 1901 (MCMI) was a common year starting on Tuesday (see link for calendar) of the Gregorian calendar (or a common year starting on Wednesday of the 13-day-slower Julian calendar). ... David Émile Durkheim (April 15, 1858 - November 15, 1917) is known as the founder of modern sociology. ... 1902 (MCMII) was a common year starting on Wednesday (see link for calendar). ... Henri Hubert (Paris 23 June 1872 - 25 May 1927) was an archaeologist and sociologist of comparative religions who is best known for his work on the Celts and his collaboration with Marcel Mauss and other members of the Annee Sociologique. ... 1902 (MCMII) was a common year starting on Wednesday (see link for calendar). ... The Gift is The Gift (movie) - an American movie, directed by Sam Raimi in 2000. ... 1924 (MCMXXIV) was a leap year starting on Tuesday (link will take you to calendar). ... 1950 (MCML) was a common year starting on Sunday (link will take you to calendar). ...


References

  • Fournier, Marcel. 1994. Marcel Mauss. Fayard: Paris (the definitive biography in French).
  • Gregory, C. A. 1982. Gifts and Commodities. London.
  • Gregory, C. A. 1997. Savage money: the anthropology and politics of commodity exchange. Amsterdam: Harwood Academic, 1997.
  • Laidlaw, J. 2000. ‘A free gift makes no friends’ Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 6:617-634.
  • Mauss, M. 1990. The Gift: forms and functions of exchange in archaic societies. London: Routledge.
  • Testart, A. 1998. 'Uncertainties of the 'Obligation to Reciprocate': A Critique of Mauss' in Marcel Mauss: A Centenary Tribute James, W. and Allen, N. J. (eds.). New York: Berghahn Books.
  • Moebius, Stephan/Papilloud, Christian (Ed.). 2005. Gift – Marcel Mauss' Kulturtheorie der Gabe. Wiesbaden: VS.
  • Moebius, Stephan. 2006. Marcel Mauss. Konstanz
  • Fournier, Marcel. Marcel Mauss: A Biography, PUP, 2005

  Results from FactBites:
 
Marcel Mauss Summary (3567 words)
Marcel Mauss was born in Épinal on May 10, 1872, to a pious Jewish family against whose traditions he rebelled as a young man. He attended the University of Bordeaux, where he studied philosophy; one of his professors was his uncle, the sociologist Émile Durkheim.
Marcel Mauss was elected to the Collège de France in 1930 and he became head of sociology.
Marcel Mauss (May 10, 1872- February 10, 1950) was a French sociologist best known for his role in elaborating on and securing the legacy of his uncle, Émile Durkheim and the Annee Sociologique.
Marcel Mauss - Encyclopedia.com (921 words)
Nephew of eminant sociologist Émile Durkheim, Mauss graduated from the Univ. of Bordeaux and the École Pratique des Hautes Études, where he later served on the faculty.
Henri Hubert and Marcel Mauss discuss the Vedic notion of sacrifice...
Introduction Anthropologists since Bronislaw Malinowski [20] and Marcel Mauss [21] have observed that reciprocity is the primary defining...
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