In this, his most famous work, Marcel Mauss presented to the world a book which revolutionized our understanding of some of the basic structures of society. By identifying the complex web of exchange and obligation involved in the act of giving, Mauss called into question many of our social conventions and economic systems. In a world rife with runaway consumption, The Gift continues to excite and challenge.
A brilliant example of the comparative method, The Gift presents the first systematic study of the custom—widespread in primitive societies from ancient Rome to present-day Melanesia—of exchanging gifts. The gift is a perfect example of what Mauss calls a total social phenomenon, since it involves legal, economic, moral, religious, aesthetic, and other dimensions. He sees the gift exchange as related to individuals and groups as much as to the objects themselves, and his analysis calls into question the social conventions and economic systems that had been taken for granted for so many years.