The Enigma of the Gift

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This work reassesses the significance of gifts in social life by focusing on sacred objects which are never exchanged despite the value they possess. It presents an analysis of the seminal work of Marcel Mauss and Claude Levi-Strauss, and drawing on his own fieldwork in Melanesia, Maurice Godelier argues that traditional theories are flawed because they consider only exchangeable gifts. By explaining gift-giving in terms of sacred objects and the power associated with them, Godelier challenges both recent and traditional theories of gift-giving.