Reciprocity in Ancient Greece

By Christopher Gill; Norman Postlethwaite et al. | Go to book overview

12
The Commodification of Symbols: Reciprocity and its Perversions in Menander

SITTA VON REDEN


INTRODUCTION

In this chapter I aim to show that reciprocity is not only a socioeconomic practice but a local concept of order, peace, and social cohesion.1 More precisely, by looking at the images of commerce in New Comedy, I shall argue that the confrontation of reciprocity and commodity exchange, which occurs in more than one play, was a metaphorical confrontation of order and disorder, civic community and its corrosion.2 Menander's motif of the 'commodification of symbols' -- that is, his representation of civic symbols as objects which have a price and are transacted arbitrarily -- suggests that commodity exchange was regarded as the moral opposite of civic exchange and thus in certain circumstances detrimental to the polis. Conversely, the moral improvement of characters and the dramatic climaxes of various plays seem to make sense against a background in which the good life was linked to reciprocity and gift exchange.

____________________
1
Already Marcel Mauss Essai sur le don had an implied philosophical agenda. It not only offered an ethnography but aimed to show that the system of the circulating gift was the foundation of early society; gift exchange meant abstention from violence in favour of solidarity, peace, and community. Thus, he suggested that the gift was the primitive parallel to the social contract regarded in early modern political philosophy as the origin of society. See Mauss ( 1925), cited from (1990), 65-71, 79-80; also Sahlins ( 1972), 168-83; Douglas ( 1990), pp. viii-x; Van Wees, Ch. I, Sect. IV.
2
It thus starts from, and attempts to confirm, the assumption that in the Greek polis the distribution of symbolic goods, such as power, civic and connubial status, as well as divine blessing, could still be envisaged in terms of reciprocity and gift exchange. See Kurke ( 1991); von Reden ( 1995); Seaford ( 1994) argues, by contrast, that the development of the polis and the spread of market exchange and coinage, which was related to it, tended to dissolve notions of reciprocity and gift exchange; thus also Gernet ( 1981).

-255-

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
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

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

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Reciprocity in Ancient Greece
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?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this book
  • Bookmarks
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
/ 370

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, 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." (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

    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.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.