chapter  1
21 Pages

GIFTS AND COMMODITIES, PEOPLE AND THINGS

I n this chapter I present my interpretation of the model that springs from Marcel Mauss's The Gift. As I described in the Preface, a number of anthropologists have elaborated the model, to the extent that it is better to speak of a "Maussian" model, rather than "Mauss's" model. Put most simply, the Maussian model identifies two polar types of social relations: commodity relations and gift relations. At the risk of over-simplifying, commodity relations are transient and impersonal, though certainly not necessarily unpleasant or cold, for they can be cheerful and gracious (e.g. Hochschild 1 983) . Equally, gift relations are durable and personal, though certainly not necessarily pleasant or warm, for they can involve conflict (Schwartz 1 967: 5-7), even the exchange of blows rather than gifts (Schiltz 1 987). In commod­ ity relations objects are impersonal bundles of use value and exchange value that are bought and sold. In gift relations objects are personal possessions that are given and received.