This book decodes the ambivalence of gift-giving. It examines its socio-ethical and integrative potential. Following a short recollection of contemporary gift-giving, its motives, occasions and its rules, the reader is invited to travel back in time and space examining 'sacrifice', 'food-sharing', and 'gift giving' as those basic institutions upon which symbolic orders of 'traditional' society rely. The historical invention of hospitality is considered and paves the way to an analysis of the anthropology of giving.
Berking goes on to explore the transition from traditional society to the market, self interest form. He questions the view that our societies are dominated by individualism and explores the contemporary interplay between self interest and the common good.
Helmuth Berking is Assistant Professor in Sociology at the Free University, Berlin.
PART ONE: THE PHENOMENOLOGY OF GIFT-GIVING Motives Occasions Emotional Norms PART TWO: TOWARDS AN ANTHROPOLOGY OF GIVING The Gift The Sacrifice Distribution of the Sacrifice Attributions PART THREE: TRANSITIONS Ideal Constructions Beyond Necessity PART FOUR: MORALITY AND SOCIETY Individualization and the Common Welfare The Solidarity of Individualism