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What between the objects given and the

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What Mauss highlights in ‘The Gift’ is that it is human
nature that we only give away our goods and labour (resources) in the hopes
that there is a return, this could be acknowledgement or thanks as long as it
creates a social relationship. Mauss mentions that “gifts are never free” and
as a selfish species a gift in return is always to be expected “we only give to
that we can receive”. An important question asked by Mauss in ‘The Gift’ is “What
power resides in the object given that causes its recipient to pay it back?”1.
One could argue that there is no power or significance in the object at all but
in the relationship created/supported between the two parties when the
transaction is made. The individual who is giving the gift of goods or labour
is not only handing over something that can be seen and touched but also
transferring a part of themselves. There is no distinction being made between the
objects given and the person who gave them, they each belong to one another and
Mauss states this by saying “the objects are never completely separated from
the men who exchange them”2.
As mentioned before, the receiver has a duty to follow through with the hypothetical
deal being made when gifts are transferred, this could be upheld with the
return of an item or service of equal or greater value. There is no legal
contract made between the two parties involved but failure to follow up and
return a gift of equal or greater (cannot be less) in value could result in
damages being made to the failing party’s social standing amongst his peer
group and trust issues could arise. The act of giving is as important in maintaining
an already formed relationship as it is in creating a new one. When receiving the
gift the individual acknowledges and accepts that relationship and understands
that failure to respond to the gesture can and will result in the deterioration
of the relationship. Mauss also mentions “Mana”3,
a Polynesian term that is used to describe someone’s life force or energy and
is commonly used in pop culture today to describe endurance. In practice, an
individual who fails to follow the unwritten rules of reciprocation could lose
an amount of their “Mana”, taking away part of themselves.  Mauss also discusses the “alienated” objects
prevalent in primitive societies, objects which cannot be given as gifts or
exchanged for something in return but must be sold and then the object’s rights
of ownership would pass onto the buyer.

1 Mauss,
3

2
Mauss, 33

3
Mauss, 11