Introduction: Spectres of Mauss

Gerald Moore

in Politics of the Gift

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print April 2011 | ISBN: 9780748642021
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748671861 | DOI:
Introduction: Spectres of Mauss

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The publication of Marcel Mauss's The Gift (1923–4) coincided with what Alan D. Schrift has described as a ‘crisis’ in French philosophy. Increasing political discredit meant philosophy found its dominance challenged by the rise of the new human sciences. But Mauss's essay would also become a point of reference for philosophers’ attempts to re-engage with politics and move beyond the increasingly contested anti-‘Anthropological’ stance of phenomenology. His critique of homo œconomicus serves not only as a point of departure from which to rethink political economy after Marx, but also as a foundational text of structuralism, and a key reference for an emerging generation of French Nietzscheans, who read Mauss as sympathetic to the critique of the modern subject. Turning to Derrida's rereading of Mauss, in Given Time, the introduction argues that Mauss's bequest cannot be recognised as a gift. Rather than limited to a work of anthropology, to be commented upon by anthropologists, it exceeds its identifiable legacy, breaking down the boundaries between disciplines, calling into question the priority of philosophy, which, exposed to the fragility of its supposed ground, becomes unsure of how to respond to, or reciprocate, Mauss's offering. The politics of the gift consists in the impossibility of receiving, or recognising, what exactly it is that Mauss bestows.

Keywords: Marcel Mauss; Gift/gift exchange/gift economy; Homo œconomicus; Anthropology; Derrida; Crisis in philosophy; Heidegger; Poststructuralism

Chapter.  13773 words. 

Subjects: Social and Political Philosophy

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