The Gift: Forms and Functions of Exchange in Archaic Societies Questions and Answers
by Marcel Mauss

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In The Gift, what does Marcel Mauss mean by 'total services' and how does the notion of contracts and exchange differ in total services differ from modern contracts and exchange?

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In his 1950 study of the history and practice of social interaction involving the exchange of “gifts,” Marcel Mauss does not intend, as he clearly explains, for his monograph to constitute so narrowly a focused subject matter as the mere exchange of gifts.  Rather, he delves deeply into the subject of gift exchanges as a pretext for the development, or evolution, of economic theory and contract law.  By focusing on “archaic” cultures, specifically, the Polynesians, Melanesians, and Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest, and the intricate processes by which gifts, including services and human beings, were historically transferred and reciprocated, he illuminates the broader societal and economic ramifications of such transactions.  In his introduction to The Gift: The Form and Reason for Exchange in Archaic Societies , Mauss explains his concept of “total services” and the context in which these ancient customs and practices represented their own form of complex contract...

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