Gift and economy: ethics, hospitality and the market

Newcastle upon Tyne, UK: Cambridge Scholars Press (2012)
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Abstract

Is it possible to really give a gift? This may, at first glance, seem like a peripheral question for philosophy, which normally directs its attention to seemingly bigger questions. The dynamics of the gift move into philosophy from anthropology and sociology, but Jacques Derrida insists that this question belongs at the heart of philosophy. This volume takes up Derrida's challenge to invest in the question of a gift, and the relationship between gift and economy. The powerful and corruptive forces of economy can wreak havoc on every effort to give or receive a pure gift. Each of the essays investigates some aspect of the gift, and the way economics relate to the sheer hospitality and generosity implied in the idea of giving. Is there a blessed economy? Must economics always operate in a sinister and exploitive fashion? What can be learned by the philosophical investigations related to this concept? There is something about the event or idea of the gift that cannot be entirely explained by the machinations of economy. In the giving of a gift something happens, if only unpredictably and rarely, that cannot be explained by the calculus that tracks the exchange of money, property, goods, debt and power. This excess that confounds the reduction of the gift to the dynamics of power and exchange is a source of creative fascination for a wide range of philosophers, including the collection of scholars who have contributed to this book.

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