spirit of the gift

from marshall sahlins (1972) – stone age econ (ch 4) – so page numbers via that


1 (16)

1 – The Original Affluent Society

41 (56)

2 – The Domestic Mode of Production: The Structure of Underproduction

101 (116)

3 – The Domestic Mode of Production: Intensification of Production

149 (164)

4 – The Spirit of the Gift

150 (165)

Maori before any other archaic society, and the idea of hau above all similar notions, responded to the central question of the Essay, the only one Mauss proposed to examine “a fond”: “What is the principle of right and interest which, in societies of primitive or archaic type, requires that the gift received must be repaid? What force is there in the thing given which compels the recipient to make a return?”(p. 148). The hau is that force. Not only is it the spirit of the foyer, but of the donor of the gift; so that even as it seeks to return to its origin unless replaced, it gives the donor a mystic and dangerous hold over the recipient.

david on magic.. gift\ness

Logically, the hau explains only why gifts are repaid. It does not of itself address the other imperatives into which Mauss decomposed the process of reciprocity: the obligation to give in the first place, and the obligation to receive. Yet by comparison with the obligation to reciprocate, these aspects Mauss treated only summarily, and even then in ways not always detached from the hau: “This rigorous combination of symmetrical and opposed rights and duties ceases to appear contradictory if one realizes that it consists above all of a melange of spiritual bonds between things which are in some degree souls, and individuals and groups which interact in some degree as things” (p. 1 63).

reciprocity ness and obligation ness as red flags

153 (168)

Embodying the person of its giver and the hau of its forest, the gift itself, on Mauss’s reading, obliges repayment. The receiver is beholden by the spirit of the donor; the hau of a taonga seeks always to return to its homeland, inexorably, even after being transferred hand to hand through a series of transactions. Upon repaying, the original recipient assumes power in turn over the first donor; hence, “la circulation obligatoire des richesses, tributs et dons” in Samoa and New Zealand. In sum: ‘it is clear that in Maori custom, the bond of law, bond by way of things, is a bond of souls, because the thing itself has a soul, is soul. From this it
follows that to present something to someone is to present something of oneself …. It is clear that in this system of ideas it is necessary to return unto another what is in reality part of his nature and substance; for, to accept something from someone is to accept something of his spiritual essence, of his soul; the retention of this thing would be dangerous and mortal, not simply because it would be illicit, but also because this thing which comes from a person, not only morally but physically and spiritually-this essence, this food, these goods, movable or immovable, these women or these offspring, these rites or these communions-give a magical and religious hold over you.

154 (169)

The hau is not the reason for exchange, only what one people happen to believe is the reason, the way they represent to themselves an unconscious necessity whose reason lies elsewhere. And behind Mauss’s fixation on the hau, Levi-Strauss perceived a general conceptual error that regretably arrested his illustrious predecessor short of the full structuralist comprehension of exchange that the Essay on the Gift had itself so brilliantly prefigured: “like Moses leading his people to a promised land of which he would never contemplate the splendor” (p. 37). For Mauss had been the first in the history of ethnology to go beyond the empirical to a deeper reality, to abandon the sensible and discrete for the system of relations; in a unique manner he haa perceived the operation of reciprocity across its diverse and multiple modalities. But, alas, Mauss could not completely escape from positivism. He continued to understand exchange in the way it is presented to experience-fragmented, that is to say, into the separate acts of giving, receiving, and repilying. Considering it thus in pieces, instead of as a unified and integral principle, he could do nothing better than to try to glue it back again with this “mystic cement,” the hau.

huge.. fragmenting ness as cancerous distraction et al

marsh exchange law et al.. graeber exchange law et al

155 (170)

(mauss) confused types of hau that in the Maori view are quite distinct-the hau of persons, that of lands and forests, and that of taonga–and on the strength of this confusion he formulated a serious error. Mauss simply had no warrant to gloss the hau of the taonga as the hau of the person who gives it. The whole idea that the exchange of gifts is an exchange of persons is sequiturto a basic misinterpretation. Ranapiri had merely said that the good given by the third person to the second was the hau of the thing received by the second from the first. The hau of persons was not at issue. In supposing it was, Mauss put his own intellectual refinements on Maori mysticism. In other words, and uvi-Strauss notwithstanding, it was not a native rationalization after all; it was a kind of French one. But as the Maori proverb says, “the troubles of other lands are their own”

The hau of persons was not at issue. In supposing it was, Mauss put his own intellectual refinements on Maori mysticism. 5

endnote 5: “When Mauss sees in the gift exchange an interchange of personalities, ‘a bond of souls,’ he is following, not native belief, but his own intellectualized interpretation of it” (Firth, 1959a, p. 420).

intellect ness as blinding/binding us

Firth for his part prefers secular to spiritual explanations of reciprocity. He would emphasize certain other sanctions of repayment,
sanctions noted by Mauss in the course of the Essay: The fear of punishment sent through the hau of goods is indeed a supernatural sanction, and a valuable one, for enforcing repayment of a gift. But to attribute the scrupulousness in settling one’s obligations to a belief in an active, detached fragment of personality of the donor, charged with nostalgia and vengeful impulses, is an entirely different matter. It is an abstraction which receives no support from native evidence. The main emphasis of the fulfillment of obligation lies, as the work of Mauss himself has suggested, in the social sanctions-the desire to continue useful economic relations, the maintenance of prestige and power-which do not require any hypothesis of recondite beliefs to explain (l 959a, p. 421)

reciprocity.. any form of m\a\p.. as cancerous distractions

hari rat park law et al.. graeber make it diff law et al..