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Fool_of_a_toker t1_j1dfecn wrote

I read The Gift by Marcel Mauss in high school and it literally ruined gift exchange for me forever (in an interesting way, at least).


edapblix t1_j1dmal3 wrote

Care to elaborate how it affected you?


Fool_of_a_toker t1_j1duaoy wrote

I always have to consider the power dynamics and social implications of gift giving and receiving. When I receive a great gift, I don’t feel joy or gratefulness (well, I do, but it’s greatly overshadowed by: OH no, how am I ever going to properly reciprocate the value of this gift to the person. They’ve listened to my interests and picked something very special and meaningful, and now the burden is on me to do the same back and to do an even better job in order to keep this relationship going properly”. AKA the one-upmanship mentioned by the author of this article. Now is that a true analysis? According to Mauss, yes it is. Even if people don’t say it consciously, subconsciously there is a tally going regarding reciprocation and putting equal effort into a relationship. The gifts in his studies are even destroyed- it’s not about the goods at ALL, it is purely about the message that is being sent and it’s a sensitive political message that puts the safety of your tribe at risk. That being said, Mauss studied tribes of people interacting with others who actually often have a tenuous wider political relationship. It’s not really as applicable to personal one on one relationships. I still can’t shake it though. Intellectually, I have not been able to persuade myself that it will affect my social standing greatly to give a bad gift. Better to avoid the risk than to get it wrong and damage a relationship by forgetting that they don’t like chocolate or something. And that’s my master class on using anthropological texts to fuel your social anxiety.

Edit: it’s been a while since I read the original text so if I forgot anything or got something wrong, please let me know!


Snufflepuffster t1_j1e1ohd wrote

often I feel gifts can be a cop out for not putting actual effort into the relationship: attentiveness, listening to your partner, actually being with them. These are the most fulfilling gifts and cannot be bought. The message attached to them is very simple too. People talk about love languages and how people choose to show their love, but I don’t really believe in that. imo people who decide to manifest love materially instead of emotionally have an avoidance problem.


XiphosAletheria t1_j1ediqs wrote

But all love must be expressed materially, because we are not psychic. We never get to truly know how another person feels about us. We can only infer it from their actions. And "love languages" are just ways of categorizing which actions make a person feel loved. For some it is being held; For some it is being told; For some it is having things done for them; For some it is receiving gifts. The last one can be problematic if what is wanted are expensive gifts, but as a love languages the point is generally not the value of the gift but the fact of a gift being given, such that the gifts themselves might cost less than you could earn in say, the time it took to give someone a really good cuddle, or to compose a flowery poem.


branchoflight t1_j1ftqfe wrote

Do you consider words and shared experiences material then?


ComplementaryCarrots t1_j1h2iv1 wrote

I have a family member who is a fantastic gift giver but they almost never take responsibility for hurting others feelings or admit they were wrong... Your point about gift giving and avoidance reminded me of her. (Though of course not all gift giving is like this.)


bwobely t1_j1e6qkd wrote

Anyone know if Mauss was cited in, Sapiens? I feel like I’ve read this somewhere


MC_Kejml t1_j1hgt8o wrote

I don't want to be mean here, but could this just be a case of you overthinking it just a little? You don't need to appreciate every gift, just like the article says, and ignore the power dynamics altogether. If someone wants to force it on you, they always lose.

And what exactly is a "bad gift"? The other person needs to take it in good faith that you did your best no matter the outcome.


Fool_of_a_toker t1_j1i6ysm wrote

You’re not being mean, I am aware it’s overthinking. And I found the article extremely neat and helpful so thanks to OP!


Benjowenjo t1_j1elrhs wrote

Bruh, you are overthinking this haha


JustAPerspective t1_j1f9ndk wrote

That seems an absurd observation in a Philosophy thread.

You lost?


Benjowenjo t1_j1g3gsf wrote

I’m all for overthinking theories of justice, ethics, and cognition but there’s something absurd about overthinking Christmas gifts where I draw the line I guess.

Sure, the sensitive tribal political message angle is perfect for philosophy/anthropology nerds but allow me play the gadfly and acknowledge if you have lost all ability to accept a gift graciously, perhaps you are the one who have lost their way in this subreddit.


JustAPerspective t1_j1gks3m wrote

>...where I draw the line I guess.

So, the line is the limit of your interest in the subject, right?


Benjowenjo t1_j1h0z62 wrote

Not quite. Philosophy way back when helped one find the path to “the good life” whatever that may be.

I draw my philosophical line when that line cripples me from enjoying the small pleasures of day to day life, after all, what is the point of philosophizing if it paralyzes you!

Good philosophy is a curative not a poison to the people and surroundings you find yourself in, including during the gift-giving season as difficult to navigate as it be.

Edit: OP enjoy your gift of Reddit gold Mwuahahaha


JustAPerspective t1_j1iylq8 wrote

To speak plainly, your lines are drawn by you, for your purposes.

They are in no way the limits of other people's interests or choices.

Might ponder that.


Thisfuckingwebsite t1_j1fctni wrote

The very existence of gift-expectation neutralizes the meaning of gift giving. A gift should be given under the explicit understanding that you wont get anything back, because your gift itself would be a surprise.

Gifts should only be for very special reasons and should be either private or anonymous. Otherwise its not really about the illustration of caring, its about self-reward at the recipients expense (granted, that recipient may "make out" on the deal from a materialistic standpoint,though)


mcr1974 t1_j1fmqul wrote

This is interesting and resonates loud with what I've learnt to perceive. But if it's to be unexpected then it shouldn't be given for a special reason, as it would be expected.

But perhaps I've misunderstood what you mean by special reason.


Thisfuckingwebsite t1_j1fvoms wrote

Yeah its an ambiguous area because no two definitions of what qualifies as special would be the same but im imagining a world where to give a gift would actually be a humbling and gracious act thatd youd only feel comfortable doing in very specific circumstances, and to expect a gift from anyone would be considered pompous


mcr1974 t1_j1fwb1b wrote

I like that.

I also follow the "karma" theory. e. g. daughter talks a lot about stranger things, I see a stranger things christmas jumper, I buy it as a gift for her.

girlfriend talks about getting into a shop to buy a new phone for her son. I have a spare new one that I bought online and it's 2x as good and half as expensive as the one she'd get in the shop - off it goes to her son. etcetc


Thisfuckingwebsite t1_j1fyjrn wrote

Yup, agreed. I like to give a modest gift that I know happens to align with their priorities/challenges/passions/pain points. Not on the life changing level but on the "ohh fuckin sweet man thank you haha" type level. The best gift a person can give is convenience


mcr1974 t1_j1fyxfv wrote

i tend not to give presents for Christmas and birthdays to my kids (they already get too much "anything they want" throughout the year). but have been coaxed into putting something (even symbolic says my 12-year-old) under the tree this year. For tradition reasons she says.

I can't for the life of God enjoy receiving presents. and almost dread them.


strattele1 t1_j1gevml wrote

I used to be like that. Reading senecas essay on benefits was useful for me, not just in how to give but especially in how to receive and show gratitude. I always felt grateful but so awkward and indebted.


[deleted] t1_j1gg0k0 wrote



captainsalmonpants t1_j1ghxcz wrote

If you hold yourself to a very high standard in gift giving, could that affect your expectations for others?


aloha_hard t1_j1gjqum wrote

I don’t hold others to the same expectations I hold myself to. I believe I am an awful gift recipient for two reasons. I had a pretty abusive childhood that I was always told I didn’t deserve anything and grew up poor poor and subsequently never received anything. Someday I’ll deal with my past trauma… or maybe not.


leskweg t1_j1gulp0 wrote

I don't see how showing love through gifts is always "material". If I know my partner likes Witcher 3, I'd get them a witcher medallion because it would remind them of their favourite game and make them happy. I enjoy receiving gifts because I like having items that remind me of people I love. Maybe it's just me, though. Like "give experiences instead of material goods" as if those goods can't be tied to experiences? I've always been a collector so again, maybe it's my particular case, but items that remind me of pleasant memories are always something I look forward to. It's what gives value to those items/gifts in the first place. Heck, going with your partner on a holiday to a place they've always wanted to see as a surprise for them is a gift that will inevitability produce pleasant and authentic experiences for you both. The language of this article is needlessly gloomy, "imposing item on a recepient" is a very weird way to say giving someone an item. And I don't see what's wrong with appreciating someone's effort to make us happy even if we don't really like that particular colour.

I understand there are dark and problematic implications regarding our consumerist culture and the empty compulsion to buy things constantly, or to give ourselves an upper-hand in a relationship, but individually, "gift giving" could be and, in my experience mostly is, a positive act for all parties involved. It's needlessly reductive to separate gift-giving and attentiveness/shared experiences as if they can't coexist and positively influence one another. I wouldn't even consider giving material goods to gain power, abuse someone or gain something in return to be "gifting".

Not to mention people who expect being gifted back in a relationship are that way usually because they have themselves tied "love" to the attentiveness needed for a meaningful gift, they think they are loved if their partner does the same thing they do. Which is wrong, sure, but a less gloomy and understandable position for someone to find themselves in.


MC_Kejml t1_j1hgzdd wrote

I like the first solution of refusing to accept just any gift and appreciate the experience of giving, but boy is that article negative. Christmas doesn't need to be Dante's Inferno.


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