Gift and relation

MG Anspach says that “To give a gift in return, to recognize the generosity of the first giver through a corresponding gesture of reciprocity, is to recognize the relation for which the initial gift is only a vehicle.” This helpfully highlights the fact that the return gift is less a . . . . Continue Reading »

Power of gift

Levi-Srauss doubts Mauss’ spiritualization of the gift that Mauss draws from the Maori concept of “hau,” the power that is communicated in, with, and under the gift. Rather, hau is “the conscious form whereby men of a given society . . . apprehended an unconscious necessity . . . . Continue Reading »

Twain on Gratitude

Thanks to NSA librarian Ed Iverson for providing references to Mark Twain’s “Letters from Earth,” where he assaults Christianity, and in several places mocks Christian gratitude to God. For instance: “Just so with diseases. If science exterminates a disease which has been . . . . Continue Reading »

Late Medieval Gratitude

Andrew Galloway traces the development of explicit discussions of gratitude in a 1994 article from the Journal of the History of Ideas. A few highlights: 1) Though he admits that gratitude was not “‘invented’ at some moment in human culture,” and that it was “the basis . . . . Continue Reading »

Highlights of Mauss, Gift

1) Methodologically, Mauss is particularly interested in investigating what he calls the “total social fact,” a social reality that gives expression to all sorts of institutions simultaneously. Gift-exchange events such as the potlatch are “religious, juridical, and moral” . . . . Continue Reading »

Waugh and Clausewitz

There is a wonderful scene in Evelyn Waugh’s Unconditional Surrender where the English Gen. Ritchie-Hooke attacks a German garrison in broad daylight, virtually alone. The Germans are left scratching their heads: “The single-handed attack on a fortified position by a British . . . . Continue Reading »

Words and Pictures

In The Republic 588d, Plato writes, “words are a more plastic material than wax.” We can construct any manner of phantasmagorical creature in words, but think of how inept any pictorial depiction of Revelation appears, or how bizarre a portrait based on the Song of Songs would be. . . . . Continue Reading »

TNR on Neuhaus

A couple of weeks back, TNR published a lengthy review of Richard Neuhaus’ latest book that expanded into a warning about the danger that Neuhaus and his fellow theocons pose to American democracy. John Wilson has a lively rebuttal to the TNR piece in the current issue of Books & Culture, and . . . . Continue Reading »

Mutual Coinherence

John Webster (in an essay in Volf and Welker, God’s Life in Trinity ) prefers the term “fellowship” to “communion” in describing the way creatures participate in the perfect life of God: “God communicates his absolute life. This communication does not mean that . . . . Continue Reading »

Cultural Anthropology and the Gift

INTRODUCTION If “gift” has become a major category of recent thought, it is largely because of the influence of anthropology. Marcel Mauss’ The Gift: The Form and Reason for Exchange in Archaic Societies is the single most important work in this regard, and we’ll spend some . . . . Continue Reading »