Free gifts and positional gifts: Beyond exchangism

European Journal of Social Theory 18 (4):451-468 (2015)
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Social theories of giving have often been shaped by anthropological accounts that present it as a form of pre-market reciprocal exchange, yet this exchangist discourse obscures important contemporary giving practices. This article discusses two types of giving that confound the exchangist model: sharing practices within the family; and free gifts to strangers. Once we reject understandings of giving derived from analyses of non-modern economies, it is possible to see that the gift economy is not a rare survival but rather is a central element of contemporary society and indeed the contemporary economy. The task for social theory is not to anachronize giving but to make sense of the variety and complexity of actual contemporary giving practices. This article offers the categories of free and positional gifts as a contribution to this analysis.



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Lifeworld and Systems in the Digital Economy.Dave Elder-Vass - 2018 - European Journal of Social Theory 21 (2):227-244.
Critical Realism and Economic Anthropology.John Harvey, Andrew Smith & David Golightly - 2017 - Journal of Critical Realism 16 (5):431-450.

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