Ancient Greece: From the Mycenaean Palaces to the Age of Homer

By Sigrid Deger-Jalkotzy; Irene S. Lemos | Go to book overview

13

GIFT EXCHANGE: MODERN THEORIES
AND ANCIENT ATTITUDES

Beate Wagner-Hasel

In a recently published volume, Reciprocity in Ancient Greece, the classical historian Hans van Wees begins his comments on 'The Law of Gratitude' with a citation from Thomas Hobbes (Leviathan 1651: 1.15) which makes clear that no one gives something or anything without expecting to benefit from it (van Wees 1998: 13). In the discourses of political economists and early theorists of gift exchange in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as well as in actual sociological debates, precisely the opposite is held to be true.

For Helmuth Berking, sociologist and author of Giving: On the Anthropology of the Gift), gift exchange offers an 'opposing image to an excessively utilitarian morality', for such exchange represents a 'form of praxis' in which 'the symbolic order and the moral vocabulary of archaic sociability are crucially grounded' (Berking 1996: 11). In his most recent book L'enigme du don the French ethnologist Maurice Godelier makes a similar argument. Crises in the fabric of contemporary society motivated his renewed investigation into the practices of gift exchange. For him even the most secularised societies require religious objects such as gifts to guarantee social cohesion (Godelier 1996: 7–16). In an essay published in 1990 in a commemorative volume for Karl Polanyi, the economist Bjorn Hettne argues very strongly for the revival of the principle of reciprocity since crisis management, both in its neo-liberal and statist forms, has failed to cope with global recession, structural unemployment and crises in political trust (Hettne 1990: 208–20; see also Caille and Godbout 1991: 11–32; Elwert 1991: 163).

How can we explain these current positive evaluations of gift exchange? Why is the quality of achieving social cohesion ascribed to the exchange of gifts? The answer lies in the history of the making of the modern theory of gift exchange. The French sociologist Marcel Mauss is generally recognised as the main initiator of modern debates on gift exchange in the early twentieth century. But Mauss's conception of the gift and gift exchange developed in his Essai sur le don is itself a child of the modern critique of capitalism, or rather the critique of the classical liberal theory of Adam Smith. As such, it was conceived as a counterimage to modern exchange understood as egoistic (Mauss 1923–4). In what follows, I firstly wish to outline the history of these origins, which I have pursued

-257-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this book

This book has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this book

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Ancient Greece: From the Mycenaean Palaces to the Age of Homer
Table of contents

Table of contents

Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen
/ 696

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.