The World of the Gift

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McGill-Queen's University Press, 2000 - Social Science - 250 pages
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In an age dominated by consumerism and government agencies many people believe that generosity and altruism either no longer exist or are fuelled by self-interest. Gifts are seen as, at best, irrelevant frills. In The World of the Gift Jacques Godbout and Alain Caillé show that in reality the gift is all-pervasive in our society.
The anthropologist Marcel Mauss, in his famous exploration of the gift in "primitive" and archaic societies, showed that the essential aspect of the exchange of presents involved the establishment of a social tie that bound the parties together above and beyond any material value of the objects exchanged. He argued that these intangible mutual "debts" constituted the social fabric. Godbout and Caillé show that, contrary to the modern assumption that societies function on the basis of market exchange and the pursuit of self-interest, the gift still constitutes the foundation of our social fabric.
The authors describe the gift not as an object but as a social connection, perhaps the most important social connection because it creates a sense of obligation to respond in kind. They examine the gift in a broad range of cases such as blood and organ donation; volunteer work; the bonds between friends, couples, and family; Santa Claus; the interaction between performers and their audience; and the relation of the artist to society.
Written in an engaging manner, The World of the Gift will appeal to anyone who is interested in how the world really operates.
Jacques T. Godbout is a research professor at the Institut national de la recherche scientifique, Université du Québec. Alain Caillé is a professor at the Université Paris X and director of the Revue du MAUSS.

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About the author (2000)

Ne le 13 juin 1951 a Paris, Roger Sue est diplome d'etudes superieures de philosophie, de l'Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris (Sciences Po) et de l'Institut Francais de Presse, Docteur d'Etat en Sciences Politiques et habilite a diriger des recherches en Sciences Sociales.

Il est aujourd'hui Professeur a la faculte des sciences humaines et sociales de l'Universite de Paris 5-Sorbonne.Principales publications: Gouverner par la peur (en collaboration), Fayard, 2007.Quelle democratie voulons-nous ? (en collaboration), La Decouverte, 2006.La Societe contre elle-meme, Fayard, 2005.Autres temps, autre ecole, Retz, 2005.La Societe civile face au pouvoir, Presses de Sciences Po, 2003.Renouer le lien social. Liberte, egalite, association, Odile Jacob, 2001.La Richesse des hommes. Vers l'economie quaternaire, Odile Jacob, 1997.Vers une economie plurielle, Syros, 1997.Temps et Ordre social, P.U.F, 1994.Le Loisir, P.U.F, 1993.Vivre en l'an 2000, Albin Michel, 1985.Vers une societe du temps libre, P.U.F., 1982.

Donald Winkler is a Montreal-based literary translator and documentary filmmaker.

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