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The Psychology of Gift Giving - Essay Example

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This essay focuses on gift giving, perhaps because of the extravagance and importance of gift-giving rituals in both primitive and modern societies. The freedom of the gift is seen as one of its main characteristics, while the idea that gifts are caught in a cycle…
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The Psychology of Gift Giving
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Download file to see previous pages This is because a gift is given without the expectation that the person giving it will gain anything whatsoever from whom they accord a gift. According to the utilitarian approach, assumptions about rational actors weighing their preferences based on some utility are much-founded (Tsing 1993 pg 77). Reciprocity is seen as undermining ‘genuine’ gifts in the former approach while utilitarian approach does take reciprocity into account though it fails to analyze why the principle of reciprocity is so effective while it comes to gifts. By providing light on both the variety of the forms of gift and the universality of the underlying principles, the argument presented hence states that gifts reflect a multi-purpose symbolic ‘utility’ that transcends both utilitarianism and anti-utilitarianism aspects of the idea (Mauss 2000 pg 101-10). In most anthropological accounts, reciprocity is essential and accepting a gift implies a solemn obligation of repayment. Therefore, the artworks by Mauss revolves around the analysis of gift giving events with the objective of disclosing the underlying rules around gifts and gifts giving and their circulation. In his work, Mauss reiterates that the theory of market did not first arise simply due to the invention of money rather as a human phenomenon, which involved rules, and contracts as experienced in the archaic societies. This, therefore, shows that before the invent of money there was already a well-established exchange system based on rules rather than the modern notion that is money and commodity transactions. Politically, Mauss argues that the analysis of the social rules guiding gifts and gift giving mostly in the archaic society gives room for us to draw some moral conclusions concerning organizational principles that our societies face (Mauss 2000 pg 120-4). According to Mauss 2000, gift giving involves an exchange as opposed to any other form of unilateral offering. This form of exchange is quite clear and sharply contrasts with the market exchange where both money and price is much dominant. As opposed to the money market transactions that are instantaneous and anonymous, the gifts form of exchange lays down a durable foundation and bonding obligations (Durkheim 2008 pg 58). Hence, the three components of gifts and gift giving according to Mauss are as follows: - One, it creates reciprocities and obligations to give and to be given back in return. Both the giving and reciprocation are separated by the passing of time; this implies prolongation and durability of this aspect including some form of measure of uncertainty about the timing and nature of the reciprocation. Lastly, according to Mauss, gifts are exchanged within social relations, which fall among the four types of social human relationships that become entangled in the cycle of offering and reciprocation depicting quite powerful inducements, rewards, and motives for repeated and ongoing exchange. Hence, gift giving is tied up in these relations and drives, power and status, social compacts and alliances, which relate to the gifts themselves (Mauss 2000 pg 30-8). My personal experience with gifts and gift giving is quite instrumental and positive. As opposed to the negative perceptions by many about gifts and gift giving, I have learned to know that this system can shape the society dramatically in a variety of ways such as their view of objects, occasions, ritual, relationships, principle and the spirit. ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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