What between the objects given and the

What Mauss highlights in ‘The Gift’ is that it is humannature that we only give away our goods and labour (resources) in the hopesthat there is a return, this could be acknowledgement or thanks as long as itcreates a social relationship. Mauss mentions that “gifts are never free” andas a selfish species a gift in return is always to be expected “we only give tothat we can receive”.

An important question asked by Mauss in ‘The Gift’ is “Whatpower resides in the object given that causes its recipient to pay it back?”1.One could argue that there is no power or significance in the object at all butin the relationship created/supported between the two parties when thetransaction is made. The individual who is giving the gift of goods or labouris not only handing over something that can be seen and touched but alsotransferring a part of themselves. There is no distinction being made between theobjects given and the person who gave them, they each belong to one another andMauss states this by saying “the objects are never completely separated fromthe men who exchange them”2.As mentioned before, the receiver has a duty to follow through with the hypotheticaldeal being made when gifts are transferred, this could be upheld with thereturn of an item or service of equal or greater value. There is no legalcontract made between the two parties involved but failure to follow up andreturn a gift of equal or greater (cannot be less) in value could result indamages being made to the failing party’s social standing amongst his peergroup and trust issues could arise.

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The act of giving is as important in maintainingan already formed relationship as it is in creating a new one. When receiving thegift the individual acknowledges and accepts that relationship and understandsthat failure to respond to the gesture can and will result in the deteriorationof the relationship. Mauss also mentions “Mana”3,a Polynesian term that is used to describe someone’s life force or energy andis commonly used in pop culture today to describe endurance. In practice, anindividual who fails to follow the unwritten rules of reciprocation could losean amount of their “Mana”, taking away part of themselves.

  Mauss also discusses the “alienated” objectsprevalent in primitive societies, objects which cannot be given as gifts orexchanged for something in return but must be sold and then the object’s rightsof ownership would pass onto the buyer.1 Mauss,32Mauss, 333Mauss, 11


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