For Durkheim and Mauss, sociology and anthropology could not be separated, and in Mauss's work anthropology came to predominate. This predominance was played out in two discrete, although interconnected ways - through analyses of the dynamics and patterns of social interaction, and in comparative analyses of civilizations. In both The Gift (1925) and 'Civilizations: Elements and Forms', Mauss extends the model already present in the 1913 'Note on the Notion of Civilization'.

In The Gift, Mauss argues that the exchanges of archaic societies which, in his view, are civilizations - are made up of a totality which includes the economic, judicial, moral, aesthetic and religious aspects of life. Their meaning can be grasped only if their interrelation is grasped also. In 'Civilizations: Elements and Forms', Mauss distinguishes between what has become the everyday usage of 'civilization', and a more complicated usage which defines it as an amalgam of social processes which may include state-formation, as well as the development of cultural and religious systems of belief. The two processes may not coincide. For Mauss, civilization cannot be reduced to the political history of a particular people, in the West or elsewhere, or a form of state. From the perspective of their cultural component, civilizations are more territorially open and extensive than empires or states.

Each direction in Mauss's work is underpinned by the Durkheimian emphasis on the social facticity of collective representations. Collective representations provide the specificity that each civilization acquires, thus providing the basis for a comparison between them, even if, as Mauss seems to think, modern civilization is typified by an increasing combination of nations with industrialism, the result of which is the globalization of Western industrial civilization at the expense of more diverse forms.