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This book focuses on the contribution of Marcel Mauss (1872-1950) to social theory and a theory of cooperation. It shows that Mauss’s essay "The Gift" (1925) can be seen as a classic of a symbolic, non-structuralist, interactionist and anti-utilitarian sociology. It critiques the dichotomy of self-interest and normatively orientated action that forms the basis of sociology. This conceptual dichotomization has caused forms of social interaction (that cannot be localized either on the side of self-interest or on that of morality) to be overlooked or taken little notice of. The book argues that it is the logic of the gift and its reciprocity that accompany and structure all forms of interaction, from the social micro- to the macro-level.
The book demonstrates that in modern societies gifts and reciprocities form their own orders of interaction. The principles of gift-giving, trust and reciprocity even accompany transfers owing to (state) compulsion as well as economic exchange. As a basic principle of sociality it is, fundamentally, present everywhere and in some areas it is explicitly and openly in effect, for example in philanthropy, civil society and solidarity economy. Sociology has for too long overlooked the fact that this principle represents a principle cooperation can be based on – even under current circumstances of global cultural differences.
This book uniquely establishes the paradigm of the gift as the basis for a theory of interaction. It will be of great interest to researchers and postgraduates in social theory, cultural theory, political sociology and global cooperation, anthropology, philosophy and politics.