In 1925, the French social theorist Marcel Mauss published a long essay about gift exchange that drew on anthropological studies of Melanesian, Polynesian, and Native North American societies. Mauss argued that institutions of gift exchange were integral to economic life in non-market societies, and that they functioned on the basis of reciprocity. Mauss's work was highly influential to the development of economic anthropology and remains an important text in contemporary anthropological thought. However, the implications of Mauss's work are contested. Anthropologists disagree about which parts of Mauss's model are correct and what the strengths and limitations of his approach are. This chapter outlines the core features of Mauss's work on gift exchange and describes how they have been interpreted by anthropologists.
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