Supposedly, a gift is the free act of willingly donating to someone something that was yours without expecting anything in exchange. It is a thus doubly a free act for it is up to the giver to decide whether he wants to make a gift or not and the receiver has no obligation to reciprocate. The fact that is done willingly is of course essential, if one gives something to someone else reluctantly, then this act becomes extortion. A gift may be any object at all, and can even be something intangible: for example, you can give your time to somebody, meaning that you spend willingly your time helping someone without being paid for it. The act of giving is thus a complex act, and it seems that it has been a human tradition for a very long period: the French writer Marcel Mauss (1872-1950) quotes a poem from the Eddas in the beginning of his work, The Gift. This poem is all about the act of giving, and, in opposition to the definition of a gift, evokes the fact that we have to reciprocate the gift. This is the main paradox of the gift, which is at the heart of Mauss' work: we do not have in theory the obligation of giving back, yet we feel implied to do so. Mauss asks the simple question of why and studies primitive people in Polynesia to give an answer. We can thus first wonder what a gift is really, and follow Mauss' lead in thinking about the need to reciprocate. Moreover, seeing that gifts are used in all aspects of life, whether they are political, economic or social, we can wonder what its implications in these aspects of life are. First of all, it is necessary to try and go beyond the traditional definition of the gift and analyze the behaviors that imply a reciprocation of the gift. This can be seen in the fact that charity is considered as an act of pity (or compassion? The frontier is most of the times blurred) and that thus, the person asking for charity and receiving it is inferior to the charitable person. This is described by Mauss in his conclusion, citing Emerson, On Gifts and Presents.
[...] In a way, the hau wants to go back home and can only do so if reciprocation is offered. Mauss thus proves that reciprocation is a necessity for these two collectivities. Mauss later talks about the same necessity for other people, logically stating that it would be of no use to prove that it is true for one people and not for the rest of the planet. Indeed, if we take a look at the mundane dinners today, it is the habit to bring a gift if invited, as a way to thank for the gift of having been invited. [...]
[...] Indeed, these public personalities represent the country and the fact that they are being honored by beautiful presents, or that they are being honorable by offering such major gifts, gilds the country's image and creates a feeling of pride that helps solidify the feeling of belonging to a nation. This effect is enhanced by the media coverage made out of it. Moreover, gifts have a major impact on politics. We could go as far as to say that our political system is based entirely on the reciprocated gift system. This is explained by Pierre Clastres in his book Society against State (1974). He takes the example of a primitive Amerindian tribe. In these tribes, the chief has the power by mutual consensus. [...]
[...] The political link is, as we can see, only based on a reciprocated gift. One could go as far as to say that democracy is based on the exact same principle. The people unite and offer to one leader the right to rule. In exchange, this leader has to rule correctly. He has to offer correct politics in exchange for the gift of being in charge and having the supreme power. This is of course at the basis of all the deduction of the State theories: from Hobbes to Fichte, not forgetting Locke and Rousseau, all these philosophers who have taken an interest in the construction of a State declare that the people have to renounce to their right to decide in order to give it to the State. [...]
[...] On the other hand, a gift may remain a simple gift in our occidental societies, and we could chose not to give back without too many implications. Indeed, there is another factor to take into account on the impact of the gift on society: the size of the society in question. In a small, closed society such as a Samoa or a Maori village, not to reciprocate a gift can have tremendous impacts for the person will lose its mana and everyone will know about it. [...]
[...] Godelier thinks that there is not a total circulation of goods in a given society. Maurice Godelier asserts that some goods are inalienable, and that the possession of such sacred goods constitutes the identity of its owners. Thus in such a gift, the user of the object changes, but not its owner, as it is an inalienable good. The gift is thus a way to allow goods circulation in a given society, according to Godelier. Finally, this discussion has been based on the assumption that, in opposition to its definition, a gift needs reciprocation. [...]
avec notre liseuse dédiée !
Pimido.com utilise des cookies sur son site. En poursuivant votre navigation sur Pimido.com ou en cliquant sur OK, vous en acceptez l'utilisation. Politique de Condifentialité