Context

(Student Guide to World Philosophy)

The Gift may best be understood within the context of Marcel Mauss’s attempt to develop a sociological approach to economic phenomena. Contrary to the predominant understanding of economics, Mauss saw economic transactions not in isolation from other social phenomena, but as part of a social totality. This sociological approach to economic relations may be traced back as far as French mathematician and philosopher Auguste Comte’s claims, in the 1800’s, that economic theorists were mistaken in viewing the economy as an autonomous, fully rationalized entity.