Gift-giving and reciprocity in global society: Introducing Marcel Mauss in international studies

Journal of International Political Theory 14 (2):126-144 (2018)
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Abstract

How do multiple obligations to give, to receive, and to reciprocate contribute to the evolution of international society? This question can be derived from the works of the French anthropologist and sociologist Marcel Mauss, in particular from his classic essay The Gift, published in 1925. The aim of this article is to introduce Mauss’ theory of the gift to international political theorists, to develop a general theoretical argument from his claim about the universality of gift-giving, and to lay out the plan of the Special Issue. First, we explore the basic concepts of gift-giving and reciprocity and how they highlight a type of exchange that differs from market exchange and from other forms of quid-pro-quo interactions. Second, we consider the Marshall Plan as an iconic and controversial example of international gift-giving. Third, we use Martin Wight’s division of international political thought into realism, rationalism, and revolutionism to locate the work of Mauss and neo-Maussian scholars within th...

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