The Gift in Movement
The bet that presided over the creation of MAUSS International is that it was worthwhile to share with an international readership some of the intellectual work that has been produced in France (and a little beyond) for some forty years around the French-language Revue du MAUSS under the aegis of anti-utilitarianism, Marcel Mauss, and his seminal Essay on the Gift. Apparently, this bet makes sense, judging by the very positive, warm, and even enthusiastic reactions that we received at the release of the first issue of MAUSS International – our Opening Gift. They have warmed our hearts and encouraged us to continue. To continue not only the work of sharing and publicizing the advances made by the Revue du MAUSS, but also as a way to invite researchers all over the world who may wish to go further in the same direction.
To do so, in our mind, means to keep engaging in, but not limit ourselves to a sheer critique of economism (that is, the dominance of market economics over social life and social sciences, or utilitarianism largo sensu), nor to a sheer celebration of Marcel Mauss as a lasting source of inspiration, nor either to the multiplication of empirical or conceptual studies on the gift – however vital and necessary all these continue to be. Our conviction is that by proposing an effective overcoming of the utilitarianism underlying a number of theorizations in social science, it is towards a general reboot of the social sciences that we must strive. We are not alone in this endeavor, but as we are explicitly sailing under the flag of anti-utilitarianism, we think the journal could act as a platform for debate and discussion among competing paradigms that share our concerns. Perhaps, together, by sharing our strengths and our weaknesses, we can change the course of the social sciences by steering it away from the mainstream. This is ambitious of course, if not crazy, but social science itself would not have come to be if its founding fathers had weighed down their ambits with too much reserve. Since these founding times, the world has clearly undergone enormous and multiple changes, which demand that its project, concepts, and methods be examined anew.
Of course, no single school of thought, academic movement, or intellectual current can come up with the one and only magic solution. This would be a hubristic view, and not at all conform to the – agonistic and complex – logics of the gift that we wish to stand by. Thus, a renewal requires, among other things, a confrontation and dialogue between what we call the “paradigm of the gift” and a whole set of kindred schools of thought, such as the ethics of care, cultural, moral, and relational sociologies, feminism and gender, the theories of the struggle for recognition, the theory of resonance and the Frankfurt School more widely, heterodox political economies, cultural anthropologies, connected histories, the various “Studies” and “Turns”, etc. In a word, what we aim for with the MAUSS International is that, like its French cousin, it may become a journal of reference for a general social science; that is for a wide range of disciplines and subdisciplines and for a general public alike, contributing thereby to the enunciation of a moral and political social science that would be simultaneously public and civic. We also wish to do this while keeping something of an amateur, playful, do-it-yourself, independent, and counter-cultural spirit. In the field of theory as elsewhere, one must know how to play seriously while avoiding taking oneself too seriously.
Achieving such an ambition will take some time. Rome was not built in a day, and neither were Jaipur or Nairobi. Our “Opening Gift”, our first issue, was made to open the way and draw attention. It included a whole series of texts by famous authors, friends, and fellow travelers of the MAUSS, from Mary Douglas to Marshall Sahlins and David Graeber and Bruno Latour, among others. As we were writing this presentation, the news reached us that Bruno Latour has joined David and Marshall in paradise. As one of the last grand theorists of his generation, Bruno Latour has joined deep philosophical reflection (the “ontological turn” and the “modes of existence”), a social theory of rhizomatic associations (“actor-network theory”), a sociological theory of modernity (a “reverse anthropology” of the West), field work (ethnographies of science, technographies and photomontages) and a humanist engagement in the ecological class struggle in a highly original research on the “multiverse” that is at the same personal, collective and universal. At the MAUSS, we have had our differences, but we also know what we learned from him and what we still owe him.
This second issue of MAUSS International takes off under the idea of the gift as an ongoing movement – as its title aims to evoke – similar to a needle that threads together different patches of cloth. It was shaped in part by some of the reactions we have had to the first issue; and constitutes our response to how the opening gift was received. It is therefore a reaction to reactions, a consecutive moment in what we hope to be a virtuous spiral of creative movement
In January of this year (2022), we had the pleasure to organize a virtual meeting with our International Advisory Board, which consists of world-leading scholars from a plurality of fields and origins. We were heartened and honored by the turnout. It was also a time to help us define where we should be going, what questions were being raised, and how we could start trying to provide some answers concerning what the MAUSS has already produced. The first theme that comes to mind has to do with the form more than the content, but not only. What kind of journal are we? Where do we fit? Where do we stand with regard to peer review, for example? We have not entirely answered these questions, but our lack of a definite answer is nonetheless an answer in itself. The MAUSS International still does not have a functioning website; our authors’ guidelines are still in flux. But that’s alright, because we surely have content, and that is what matters. In the end, though, this second issue follows the recipe we aimed at from the start, combining one-third first-time publications of translated material, namely from the MAUSS’ plentiful vaults, with one-third new, first-time quality articles, and one-third reprints of landmark, classic or new writings. What this illustrates is that the MAUSS International, like its forty-year-old French cousin Revue du MAUSS, is before anything else the product of strong and collaborative editorial work, guided by a clear and distinctive vision, unique in the Anglosphere.
This second issue of the journal offers a bounty of articles that explore some of the issues, even entire domains of research, which a gift-theoretical approach can open up. The articles vary in style and length. There are three rather massive texts that would have sufficed to make for an entire issue on their own: A first such text, by André Magnelli, reconstructs the history of the Mouvement anti-utilitariste en sciences sociales, since its foundation in 1982 to this new journal; a second, by Lars Spuybroek, uses Marcel Mauss to understand the beauty, elegance, and grace of movement in the arts and in everyday life; and a third, by Mayfair Yang, draws on the work of Georges Bataille to illuminate striking cultural convergences between potlatches in China and the Northwest Coast of the Americas. This is counterbalanced by a series of shorter or lighter texts, such as those dealing with jazz, animal husbandry, or debt in Babylonia. We definitely consider, however, being more contained next time and producing henceforth more compact issues.
Celebrating Forty Years of Intellectual Activism
The MAUSS was founded in Paris in 1982. This makes its fortieth anniversary a perfect occasion to celebrate and look back upon some of its accomplishments. We have gathered four substantial articles in a first anniversary section. Together, they sketch a very thorough and historically informed presentation and discussion of the MAUSS’ “anti-utilitarianism”, and the way in which it unfolded and kept moving over the years. To that extent, this first section is also no doubt a bit of a tribute to Alain Caillé. Representative of the MAUSS’ capacity to attract lasting intellectual alliances, it also includes an influential article by Jacques T. Godbout, a longtime friend of the MAUSS and a leading force in research on the gift.
The first article, by Frédéric Vandenberghe, one of our editors, focuses on the lifework of Alain Caillé, whom he describes as “a person in movement, the movement in person, the one who makes the movement move”. Reviewing four decades of Caillé’s work, he distinguishes three successive waves of anti-utilitarianism: The critique of anti-utilitarianism, which was largely indebted to Karl Polanyi, the subsequent formulation of the “gift paradigm”, and the exploration of possible connections between the agonistic gift and the struggle of recognition. As the negative critique of the “axiomatics of interest” was relayed by a reconstructive archeology of the gift, Mauss’ Essay on the Gift became the Urtext of much of Caillé’s reflections. Indicating the constructive openness of the MAUSS, Vandenberghe also occasionally points to possible critiques of the gift paradigm.
Next is a text by Alain Caillé himself. It is the translation of the introduction to his latest book, Extensions du domaine du don (Extensions of the Domain of the Gift), published in 2019 by Actes Sud. In this excerpt, Caillé reflects on the history of the MAUSS and his own intellectual journey, providing keys as to how a certain understanding of Mauss’ works provides the touchstone from which to move from “the gift” as a concept to a “gift paradigm”. He also underscores, as a further extension of this conception, his refusal to think the gift by starting from the concept of donation (Gegebenheit), as done by phenomenologists from Heidegger to Derrida and Jean-Luc Marion. Instead, he proposes to think of donation as a “quasi-gift”. This permits him to shed new light on phenomena as diverse as play, consumption, sport, art, ecology, and recognition. Caillé concludes by insisting how the ambition of the MAUSSian project needs to be understood as profoundly interdisciplinary: through the exploration of an “overlapping consensus” between the gift paradigm and kindred theories, it aims to federate anti-utilitarian strands of social and political sciences into a general sociology. It is worth noting here that Caillé’s primer on the gift-paradigm, recently published by the University of Chicago Press (2020), will be discussed at the meetings of the ISA (International Sociological Association) this coming end of June in Melbourne – marking thus a growing interest and visibility among English reading sociologists.
This is followed by what is the most comprehensive, complete, and synthetic presentation of the MAUSS’ work that we know of. Authored by André Magnelli, a young Brazilian sociologist who has founded and directs a small publishing house in Rio de Janeiro, the article partakes of a larger reflection on a French tradition of political philosophy (running from Merleau-Ponty to Claude Lefort) that puts the symbolical at the heart of the political. It offers a systematic historical reconstruction of the trajectory of the MAUSS and that of one of its founders, Alain Caillé, whose intellectual career intertwines with the former. This reconstruction is so precise and systematic that Caillé himself was reminded of certain stages of his trajectory he had largely forgotten, notably his doctoral thesis in economics in which he submitted the idea of economic rationality to a radical critique comparable to the Frankurt School’s critique of the Enlightenment.
The first section on the history of the MAUSS concludes with a short text by Jacques T. Godbout, a Canadian sociologist from Québec, whose interpretation of Mauss’ Essay on the Gift had a significant influence on the MAUSS. Godbout’s contribution is an important one because by showing the continuing relevance of the gift for modern societies, it opened up completely new vistas for sociology. He argues that the discussion of giving doesn’t end with the model of the obligatory and reciprocal ritual of early societies on one hand, and the pure and unilateral gift of the moderns on the other. The gift has not to be defined by the fact that there is, or is not, a return. In the Essay, the moral foundation is shifted from the idea of free and gratuitous to one of transfer of identity through the hau: to the idea that a true gift is a gift of oneself. Even if it is easy to understand the force that pushes us to give when the link is personal, it nevertheless also pushes us to give to strangers. As if, contrary to Lévi-Strauss’ belief, the Maussian conception of the hau was in fact typically western and probably reflects our own society’s preoccupation with the gift…
Playing The Gift
In the second section, we have gathered a variety of creative interpretations of the gift. Whether theoretical or more empirical, they show its relevance to an astonishing range of social and cultural phenomena. To get into the tune, we start with an inspiring piece on jazz by Mark Osteen, who significantly here, twenty years ago already, also edited an impressive interdisciplinary volume on the gift. This essay proposes that jazz improvisation and gift giving share many principles and practices, including spontaneity, reciprocity, excess, and risk. Jam sessions, where musicians share and explore an archive of standard chord changes, thus exemplify several gift practices. After further analyzing the nature and types of risk, contingency, sociability, reciprocity, and excess in both practices, the essay concludes that just as jazz exemplifies the gift, so the gift may be seen as a kind of social and economic jazz.
What a contrast with the gift as seen in the works of René Girard! Hardly appreciated or even cited by professional anthropologists, Girard, who taught at Stanford until his death, nevertheless exerts a strong influence in various literary, philosophical, and religious circles. If Osteen’s gift emphasized spontaneity and generosity, Girard’s gift foregrounds violence and sacrifice. To rescue the gift from this dark anthropology of mimetic rivalry, Philippe Chanial, current chief editor of the Revue du MAUSS and companion of the present editing team, shows how Girard systematically poisons the gift. In order to hold fast to his hypothesis that desire can only be mimetic, Girard is obliged to focus on the negative, violent side of gift-giving. In so doing, he denies the very possibility of jazz improvisations such as captured by Osteen, but also of friendship and love, whether maternal or romantic, resulting in a hemiplegic vision of social relations.
Jocelyne Porcher is well known in France for her defense of animal rights, which she casts as labor rights. In her article, she distinguishes two ways of practicing what may seem at first to be one same and single economic activity: animal husbandry. In reality, Jocelyne Porcher shows, there is a break between the traditional, immemorial way of breeding and industrial breeding that acts as a rupture with the cycles of the gift. In industrial breeding, however concerned it may be with “animal welfare”, cows, chickens, sheep, or pigs are reduced to production matter and managed in the most profitable way possible. What research shows, however, is how traditional husbandry is permeated with gifts and counter-gifts that circulate between the farmer and the animals. This circulation domesticates not only the animals, but to some extent, also the economy.
The following text by Iddo Tavory, Sonia Prelat, and Shelly Ronen explores the complexities of pro bono work as a multifaceted form of gift in the context of the advertising industry in the United States. Listening to what those who practice it have to say and feel about it, the authors show how pro bono work becomes the vector of multiple tangled forms of “the good”, ranging from moral to personal and professional and providing a counterweight to “alienated”, ”ordinary” labor for sale. Even when partaking of an industry subservient to hard-core market capitalism, gift dynamics are shown to unfold with distinctive emotional tenor and unpredictable temporality, and with the same paradoxical combination of contradictory orientations (i.e. interest and disinterest, freedom and obligation) that were at the heart of Mauss’ argument in his now classic Essay on the Gift. All of it, moreover, as experienced by individuals engaging in ongoing negotiation of their position at the interface of gift relations on the one hand, and commercial professional interests on the other.
Moving with Grace
If the discussion on the gift is so challenging, it is because, however one defines it, the gift refers to something that goes beyond the functional, the calculating, the tit for tat. It evokes something that is in surplus. This “in addition to” touches on the transcendent and the supererogatory. There is an irreducible element of gratuity, grace, and beauty in the gift. What, then, are the connections between grace, as both a Christian theological concept and aesthetic notion (how a dancer moves with grace), and the gift? If the gift is, as we believe, an anthropological constant, how can it shed light on the particular variations of it we find in the Western concept of grace?
In what is the absorbing introduction to his book The Grace Machine, soon to appear in translation in French and which we reproduce here, architect, artist, and theorist of aesthetics Lars Spuybroek challenges us to think of all the gift’s dimensions and meanings of grace at once, as blending in and propelled by the impetus of a movement in action. He points out that grace and charity are etymologically related and proceeds to a brilliant analysis of the dance of the three graces, as in Sandro Botticelli’s representation of Aglaea, Euphrosyne, and Thalia in Primavera, the celebrated painting that hangs in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. To explain the circular movement that interconnects the three figures into a dance, he relates each of them to one of Mauss’ three obligations of the gift cycle: giving, receiving, and thanking, suggesting that the beauty of the movement comes from grace. Following Friedrich Schiller’s definition of grace as “beauty that can move without effort”, he shows that it is the gift that makes the figures move with elegance – as if they were moving by themselves.
Next, we present an essential text authored by Camille Tarot, one of France’s leading Maussologists and scholar of religion, in which he develops the lineaments of a gift-theoretical perspective on grace. He begins by noting how theologians have ignored the gift as much as sociologists and anthropologists have ignored grace. For theologians, the idea of the gift diminishes God’s grace – as if God were obliged to give or was expecting a return; social scientists for their part consider grace as a Christian belief that has not much to do with exchange. To get out of this impasse, Tarot proposes to understand the grace of God as a form of mana. Drawing on Mauss’ “micro-holistic” perspective on social facts, he defines religion most promisingly as a three-axial system of the gift that interrelates humans and the beyond (vertical dimension), humans among themselves (horizontal dimension) and humans and their ancestors (longitudinal dimension). If we understand that in religion something circulates that binds the collective and the individuals, then we can use religion to disclose how society is constituted as the totality of relations between, Gods, humans, and their ancestors.
While Pierpaolo Donati does not explicitly evoke the question of grace, the issue is present as a backdrop to his rich reflection on what he calls the “Third”. As one of the main representatives of the relational turn in sociology, Donati defends a non-reductive vision of the Third as the element that connects two or more agents (individuals or collectives) into a meaningful relation. Like the Spirit, culture, or society, the Third is what lies between Ego and Alter. It emerges as an intentional product of their mutual action. When intersubjective relations are gift-relations, animated by the norm of reciprocity, the relation becomes explicitly geared towards the sustenance of a We in the future. Becoming as it were conscious of itself in the Third, the relation becomes a good in itself that the agents intentionally pursue as something that transcends them. Without the Third, the relationship itself would collapse on itself. Is this not close to grace?
One of the central issues at stake in the debates on the possible scope of a gift paradigm concerns the point, discussed by Jacques T. Godbout and Marcel Hénaff among others, as to whether there is a form of continuity or, on the contrary, a radical discontinuity between the archaic ceremonial gift and the modern gift. Moreover, is the gift truly a universal? Does the gift make sense mainly, or even only in the West, influenced by two thousand years of Christianity, or is it also present and relevant in other civilizations? One of the main concerns and objectives of the MAUSS International is to keep up the fight against Western ethnocentrism. This is why Mauss’ The Gift, which is based chiefly on non-Western ethnographic material, appears to us a being such a valuable avenue. Here we go East, to China namely and beyond, with two substantial contributions.
Inspired by both Mauss and Bataille and weighing their respective contributions for thinking ancient civilizations, Mayfair Yang examines some striking continuities between rituals, symbols, and aesthetics in ancient China and the Western Pacific shore of the Americas. Yang finds insights in Bataille’s work that better highlight the element of excess, surplus, and wastefulness that characterize potlatches, feasting, and other strongly agonistic types of gift. In a polemical vein, she opposes two logics of the gift: a first one, unearthed by Mauss, which remains bound by reciprocity or redistribution, and a second one, theorized by Bataille, which tends to excess and transcends all utilitarian expectations of a return.
“Mauss’ emphasis on a return for the gift given, she says, seems more compatible with the pragmatic ethos of modern capitalist societies. Bataille’s second logic of the gift takes the Nietzschean spirit of anti-utilitarianism to new heights.” Based on her extensive fieldwork and personal experience in China, she argues that Bataille’s radical anti-utilitarianism still is relevant today: the spirit of excessive generosity continues to be displayed in an alternative economy that is not dedicated to labor and production, but is used up and consumed in ritual expenditures. With a hint at the war in Ukraine, she concludes that the more wealth is dispensed to religious expenditures, the less is left for warfare.
Next up, David A. Palmer keeps us in China but treads a different lineage, this time one that stretches from Durkheim and Mauss to Granet and Lévi-Strauss. Marcel Granet was one of Durkheim’s disciples, and is without a doubt the most important French sinologist of his time. Setting aside the “outdated empirical assumptions” which specialists have later found in Granet’s work, Palmer proceeds to excavate how his work on Chinese cosmology and kinship mobilized a method that is more Maussian than Durkheimian. He also suggests Granet was a major, if not the major inspiration for Lévi-Strauss’ structuralism. Yet, because Granet does not isolate kinship as Lévi-Strauss does from other social institutions, and because he remains sensitive to the historical evolutions of ancient Chinese social systems, his work remains broadly relevant for social theory today.
Civilizational Analysis after (Post-)Colonialism
The emphasis in the previous section on the Chinese contribution to Eurocentric social science represents a further step in the necessary deprovincialization of the latter. From now on, we have to reason on a global scale and, symmetrically, open social science to all non-Western or, more precisely, non-European-USA contributions.
In this perspective, Johann P. Arnason’s clarification of existing civilizational approaches proves invaluable. His encyclopedic knowledge of the trajectories of civilizations allows him to refine Shmuel Eisenstadt’s approach to comparative civilizational analysis in a clearly anti-utilitarian perspective. Indebted both to Max Weber and to Cornelius Castoriadis, he lays out a complex scheme for a comparative analysis of the relations between social imaginaries, economic wealth, and political power across civilizations. He also offers a fine critique of Huntington’s theses, while insisting on the historical weight of empires. Empires that cannot in any way be reduced to their religious underpinnings. And it would be very premature to claim that they have disappeared, as the Russian offensive in Ukraine shows all too clearly. If we look closely, the only empires that are really in the process of irreversible disappearance are the English and French colonial empires.
Civilizational analysis, in turn, begs the question of how Western social theory can understand and learn from non-Western social theory and non-Western critiques of coloniality. Paulo Henrique Martins is a Latin American scholar and has been a companion of the MAUSS for decades. Here he surveys and synthetizes various strands of what he calls the Critical Theory of Coloniality (CTC), which is the title of the book from which this text is extracted. Martins argues that South-North dialogues should complement South-South dialogues. He suggests, moreover, that the Frankfurt School and the MAUSS are privileged bridgeheads for a critique of Western hegemony and capitalism. He therefore advocates a “pluriversal theoretical program” as an answer to the sterile opposition between hyper-relativism and one-size-fits-all European universalism. Only through such a program can non-Western knowledge truly become decolonialized.
This is certainly a goal that Stéphane Dufoix, in his reading of Martin’s book, thinks is both desirable and realizable. Linking this to the Convivialist Manifesto, he recalls how the notion of pluriversalism is defined as “a universalism for a plurality of voices”, and can be imagined as a world made up of connected islands.
In this section, heterodox economists and economic anthropologists who work in the tradition of Mauss and Polanyi ponder what contribution the moral economy of the gift could make to the renewal of political economy. Instead of cutting off the discipline of economics from the social sciences, they plead for a reintegration of economics into the social sciences. To overcome the restrictions of the standard model in economics, they advocate an anthropological critique of economics as a first and necessary step towards the development of a moral and political economy and the construction of a moral and political community.
According to Michael Hudson, one of the best experts on Babylonian economics, and who is now seen as one of the most important heterodox economists, the ancient economies of the Middle East knew how to domesticate the economy. By periodically abolishing debts through the practice of jubilee, they prohibited the infinite enrichment of creditors. The “West”, on the other hand, since Greece and Rome, has made the choice to systematically favor creditors. Hence, the ambiguous character of our democracies. “Democracy”, he writes, “has not succeeded well in preventing oligarchies from taking control. Only by a strong government – as the classical economists urged in their tax reforms and advocacy of public enterprise evolving into socialism – can society regulate economies in the public interest. But from classical antiquity to modern times, nominal democracies have not brought financial dynamics under control to resist rentier oligarchies”.
The great interest of the text by Mario Cedrini and Roberto Marchionatti, two economists who are perfectly aware of all new developments and ongoing debates within their profession, is to show with great precision how much economic science would gain by becoming authentically interdisciplinary and opening up to anthropology: to begin with, it would have to get rid of the barter fable which, since Adam Smith, has been in some way constitutive of the discipline. Then, it could integrate the question of the gift and rejoin the social sciences, no longer to colonize them with their reductive analytical models of individual and social behavior, but to learn with them how the world actually functions.
In the next piece, three French economists who each represent a current within heterodox economics, draw the conclusions from the anthropological and historical critiques of neo-classical economics. Instead of insisting on the differences between the regulation school (Robert Boyer), the economy of conventions (Olivier Favereau) and the MAUSS (Alain Caillé), they underscore their convergences and outline in a short but powerful “quasi-manifesto” the principles of an institutionalist political economy. Whereas neo-classical economics and political economy only know two institutions (markets and states), the new institutionalist political economy works with three. Following Polanyi, it reintroduces the commons into the picture and proposes a new articulation between markets, states, and civil society at the local, national and global levels of society.
To conclude this section, Keith Hart, the renowned economic anthropologist who invented the concept of the “informal sector”, proposes us a preview of his forthcoming book on Marcel Mauss. Conceived as a sequel to Self in the World, his own intellectual biography, this political biography of Marcel Mauss teaches us how the personal and the universal can be intertwined in a reflexive world history. With passion, he shows here how Mauss’ ethical and political commitment influenced him and shaped his own worldview. Connecting his own life journey to the one of humanity, the author stresses how the works of Mauss can help us engage with our own humanity and answer the present challenges. “Humanity is a project for our species”, he writes, because if we cannot “identify with humanity as a whole, we will not solve problems that are global in scope”.
Literary Supplement: The Teacher and the Prince
Continuing what was started in our first issue with a reprint of Dostoyevsky’s Man in the Underground (as was done in the very first Bulletin du MAUSS in 1982), we want to give space to a literary counterpoint to our scientific statement. We continue with Dostoyevsky, but this time with Prince Myshkin, the Idiot, an anti-utilitarian character par excellence, of which Michel Terestchenko offers us a striking reading. We also republish a small extract from Dickens’ Hard Times in which he presents us with an untimely portrait of the teacher Thomas Gradgrind, who like today’s realists only wanted facts and figures.
Gift Research across Disciplines (2000-2022): A Compilation and Open Invitation
The topic of the gift is so central to the ongoing elaboration of a constructive anti-utilitarian approach and its dialogue with multiple strands of theory in the human sciences, we feel it is vital to offer ourselves and our readers as complete a listing as possible of academic writings on the question. With that aim in mind, Ilana Silber, one of our editors, presents us here with the launching of a project aiming to provide a comprehensive purview of gift research across disciplines in the humanities and social sciences since 2000. It is an on-going, open and interactive compilation project. Our hope is that, once our website will be up and functioning, we can keep improving the list after its first publication in this second issue of MAUSS International, and invite whoever is interested to contribute to making it more fully comprehensive. The only distinction introduced is that between studies that are historically oriented and those with a more general or contemporary research orientation – in whichever specific disciplinary, geographic, and cultural context. For now, we are launching a first such listing in English, have already a list in German planned for publication in the near future, and intend to initiate and encourage similar compilations of relevant studies in other languages. While not without limitations, we are glad to offer this initial bibliographic rendering of what clearly emerges as an astonishingly rich and expanding field of multi-disciplinary study across the globe.
To conclude this presentation, the sum of these contributions serves to highlight the vastness and richness of the avenues opened up by an anti-utilitarian social science inspired by Mauss, but not only. Far from being merely a critical standpoint, anti-utilitarianism as we understand it seamlessly develops into a constructive, and still developing program that we call the gift paradigm. From this vantage point, the gift can be deployed to shed light on gratuitousness, beauty, grace, virtuoso improvisations, and playfulness, but it can also be tuned to unearth the social structures founded upon destructive excess and agonistic rituals. It allows to hold together opposing strands, like Bataille and Lévi-Strauss, and provides a template from which to compare even the incomparable, such as “high civilizations” and prehistoric ones, and reconcile sociology with anthropology, as Mauss believed should be done. Indeed, Mauss’ work and the gift paradigm we draw from it enables us to consider how human societies, across geographies and time, are made of both continuities and discontinuities. It is no wonder that Global South thinkers find it to be worthy of engagement as a partner for decolonialized dialogues and the construction of alternatives, not just as a handy tool for tearing things down. There is certainly plenty to be worried about in today’s world, but there are also plenty of resources to wage a good fight.
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