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The Gift Unraveled: Communism, Exchange, and Hierarchy as Infravalues , .

There is probably no concept that might seem so over-theorized in anthropology as the gift. Yet at the same time, it is in many ways surprisingly under-theorized. Many of the conundrums that bedevil the literatureon the notorious impossibility of the gift, for exampleare more shadows cast by economistic logic, than anything implied by Mauss original argument. Yet at the same time, Mauss own argument is in many ways confused and even incoherent. One reason for this is that gift is essentially a residual category, collapsing together any transfer of goods or services that does not follow an explicitly commercial logic. There is absolutely no reason why all such transactions should necessarily follow any common logic and every reason to believe they do not. The first half of the course ends, then, with a suggestion that much of the debate between economists and anti-economists is simply misplaced, and that the transfer of goods and services is governed, everywhere, by a variety of different distinct transactional modes, which can be describedat least in preliminary termsas communism, exchange, and hierarchy. Gifts might fall into any one of these, and in practice, the principles often overlap or bleed into one another. These principles can be considered values in themselves, or rather, infra-values, the underlying principles on which more elaborate forms of value are constructed.



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