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Marcel MaussEssai sur le don


“We do not have only a merchant’s moral,” Marcel Mauss states in this major text of 20th century anthropology. It presents the result of several decades of research on different archaic societies. Not only is it possible to consider trading outside the market, but complex savings are based on giving and giving back. The name of the system at the heart of its analysis has remained in the annals: the potlatch.

Especially practiced in some Amerindian tribes, this sumptuous rite based on the destruction of what one possesses brings to the top of the social scale only individuals capable of separating themselves from all their goods. By taking an interest in this system that goes against economic rationalism as we are experiencing it, this text exerted a profound influence on the whole of the humanities, until Guy Debord and his colleagues from the Lettrist International who baptized their own magazine Potlatch.

The potlatch and the kula have first of all a spiritual dimension: the given thing is not inert, it involves the honor of the one who gives it, as much as of the one who receives it. This sacred dimension of exchange is sorely lacking today. Perhaps the key to the moral crisis that humanity faces today lies in our relationship to giving.

  • Marcel Mauss
  • Allia
  • Language French
  • Release2021
  • Pages224
  • Format8.5 x 12 cm
  • ISBN9791030413359

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