Mainstream economics offers a perspective on the gift which is constructed around exchange, axioms of self-interest, instrumental rationality and utility-maximisation – concepts that predominate within conventional forms of economic analysis. Recognising the gift as an example of social practice underpinned by social institutions, this book moves beyond this utilitarian approach to explore perspectives on the gift from social and institutional economics.

Through contributions from an international and interdisciplinary cast of authors, the chapters explore key questions such as: what is the relationship between social institutions, on the one hand, and gift, exchange, reciprocity on the other? What are the social mechanisms that underpin gift and gift-giving actions? And finally, what is the relationship between individuals, societies, gift-giving and cooperation? The answers to these questions and others serve to highlight the importance of the analysis of gift in economics and other social sciences. The book also demonstrates the potential of the analysis of the gift to contribute to solving current problems for humanity at various levels of social aggregation.

This key text makes a significant contribution to the literature on the gift which will be of interest to readers of heterodox economics, social anthropology, philosophy of economics, sociology and political philosophy.

chapter 1|11 pages


ByStefan Kesting, Ioana Negru, Paolo Silvestri

part I|63 pages

Theoretical approaches

chapter 2|19 pages

Institutional orders and the gift

A macrosociological approach
ByFrank Adloff

chapter 3|18 pages

Beneficence, reciprocity and institutions in Smith

ByBenoît Walraevens

chapter 4|24 pages

The gift as total social fact

From Mauss to money
ByDiego Viana

part II|133 pages

Applied, empirical or experimental case studies

chapter 5|19 pages

Lab scientists’ innovativeness

A case study of networks and favour exchange
ByWilfred Dolfsma, Rene van der Eijk

chapter 6|23 pages

Gift as conspicuous consumption

The case of the Odyssey
ByPaschalis A. Arvanitidis, Polyxeni Strolonga

chapter 7|20 pages

The fluid nature of gifts and grants

An institutional application to the Marshall Plan
ByStefan Kesting

chapter 8|19 pages

An institutional analysis of the dowry system in South Asia

ByKalpana Khanal, Ruchira Sen

chapter 9|29 pages

In search of relevant financial regulation

Some lessons from the gift-economics
ByFaruk Ülgen, Marina Sakovich

chapter 10|14 pages

Principles of exchange and reciprocity in the context of providing care

ByAnna Zachorowska-Mazurkiewicz

chapter 11|7 pages


The puzzle of the gift
ByWilfred Dolfsma