Excess, Time, and the Pure Gift: Postmodern Transformations of Marcel Mauss' Theory

In: Method & Theory in the Study of Religion
Carl Olson
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Marcel Mauss' study of the gift is generally considered a classic work in the field of religious studies and in the discipline of anthropology. This exemplary paradigm of scholarship, however, is not given the same respect and acceptance by some postmodern thinkers because it fails to address in part the significance of difference. After reviewing the major highlights of Mauss' theory and the insights of Jacques Derrida and George Bataille on the phenomenon of the gift, these theories will be placed within the context of theoretical work on the Hindu notion of the gift in order to test their reflections about the nature of the gift within the context of a particular tradition. Finally, some aspects of the work of Bataille and Derrida will be compared with Mauss in order to demonstrate some of the problems with the respective positions of each side and briefly to compare some aspects of their respective positions on such issues as time, presence, and rationality.

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