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The Gift Paradigm

A Short Introduction to the Anti-Utilitarian Movement in the Social Sciences

Alain Caillé

In his classic essay The Gift, Marcel Mauss argued that gifts can never be truly free; rather, they bring about an expectation of reciprocal exchange. For over one hundred years, his ideas on economy, social relations, and exchange have inspired new modes of thought, none more so than what crystallized in the 1980s around an innovative group of French academics. In The Gift Paradigm, Alain Caillé provides the first in-depth, English-language introduction to La Revue du MAUSS—or, “Anti-Utilitarian Movement in the Social Sciences,” combining the work of anthropologists, sociologists, philosophers, and others. Today, the very idea of a “general social science” seems unthinkable, unless you count the pervasive sway of a utilitarian logic in orthodox economics, or the diffuse influence of neoliberalism. Here, Caillé offers a distinctly different reading of economy and society, inspired by Mauss—as vital now as ever.

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