The Gift and its Paradoxes: Beyond Mauss, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

The Gift and its Paradoxes

Beyond Mauss, 1st Edition

By Olli Pyyhtinen


180 pages

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Paperback: 9781138271845
pub: 2016-11-28
Hardback: 9781409450979
pub: 2014-01-28
eBook (VitalSource) : 9781315557687
pub: 2016-03-03
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Bringing social theory and philosophy to bear on popular movies, novels, myths, and fairy tales, The Gift and its Paradoxes explores the ambiguity of the gift: it is at once both a relation and a thing, alienable and inalienable, present and poison. Challenging the nature of giving as reciprocal, the book engages critically with the work of Mauss and develops a new theory of the gift according to which the gift cannot be reduced to a model of exchange, but must instead entail a loss or sacrifice. Ultimately, the gift is examined in the book as the impossible occurrence of gratuitous giving. In addition to exploring the conditions of possibility and impossibility of the gift, the book draws on the thought of figures such as Derrida, Serres, Simmel, Cixous, Irigaray and Heidegger to argue for the relevance of the phenomenon of the gift to broader issues in contemporary social sciences. It takes up questions concerning the constitution of community and the processes by which people are included in or excluded from it, gender relations, materiality, the economy, and the possibility that death itself could be a gift, in the form of euthanasia or self-sacrifice. A rigorous yet accessible examination of the phenomenon of the gift in relation to a range of contemporary concerns, The Gift and its Paradoxes will appeal to scholars and students within sociology, philosophy, anthropology, political theory and film and literature studies.


’Since Mauss’s The Gift first appeared in 1924, the problematic of the gift has engaged theorists across the humanities and social sciences. Olli Pyyhtinen reviews much of this literature, while also using movies, novels, and fairy tales to offer a novel challenge to the privileging of relations of exchange and reciprocity by focusing attention back on the gift itself as a paradoxical object.’ Alan D. Schrift, Grinnell College, USA ’In this fresh take on classic theories, Olli Pyyhtinen shows not only the anthropological complexities inherent in the gift, but the necessity of engaging with it on an ontological level. By way of Derridean deconstruction, analyses of popular culture and a brilliant application of Serres's notion of the parasite, we're here presented with a most original take on an oft-misunderstood phenomenon.’ Alf Rehn, Ã…bo Akademi University, Finland

Table of Contents

Contents: Genesis; The (im)possible gift; The generosity of the given; Parasites’ paradise (aka like hopping on the beach); In/exclusions: the gift of blood and alms for the poor; Gendered economies of the gift; Making a gift of death; The gift is not one; Bibliography; Index.

About the Author

Olli Pyyhtinen is is Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Turku, Finland and author of Simmel and 'the Social'.

About the Series

Classical and Contemporary Social Theory

Classical and Contemporary Social Theory
Classical and Contemporary Social Theory publishes rigorous scholarly work that re-discovers the relevance of social theory for contemporary times, demonstrating the enduring importance of theory for modern social issues. The series covers social theory in a broad sense, inviting contributions on both 'classical' and modern theory, thus encompassing sociology, without being confined to a single discipline. As such, work from across the social sciences is welcome, provided that volumes address the social context of particular issues, subjects, or figures and offer new understandings of social reality and the contribution of a theorist or school to our understanding of it. The series considers significant new appraisals of established thinkers or schools, comparative works or contributions that discuss a particular social issue or phenomenon in relation to the work of specific theorists or theoretical approaches. Contributions are welcome that assess broad strands of thought within certain schools or across the work of a number of thinkers, but always with an eye toward contributing to contemporary understandings of social issues and contexts.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PHILOSOPHY / Political
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Anthropology / General