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We all give and receive gifts. But few of us reflect on the risks and uncertainties inherent to this form. For example, to give means to acquire power, to effect a symbolic exchange, to initiate ties and alliances, to convey social messages to others and to classify our own status. Gift-giving is also a device to register honour and shame, to show solidarity, to equalize and to create intimacy.
This fascinating volume looks at the ambivalence of gift-giving; contemporary gift-giving, its motives, occasions and its rules; examines sacrifice', food-sharing' and gift-giving' as those basic institutions upon which symbolic orders of traditional' society rely; and considers the historical invention of hospitality, paving the way to an analysis of the anthropology of giving. Berking explores the transition from traditional society to the market self-interest form, sketching a moral economy beyond the rationale of the market-place and a world caught in the grip of competitive possessive individualism.