ELDER-VASS, D.J., 2015. Free gifts and positional gifts: beyond exchangism. European Journal of Social Theory, 18(4), pp.451-468.
Social theories of giving have often been shaped by anthropological accounts that present it as a form of pre-market reciprocal exchange, yet this exchangist discourse obscures important contemporary giving practices. This paper discusses two types of giving that confound the exchangist model: sharing practices within the family, and free gifts to strangers. Once we reject understandings of giving derived from analyses of non-modern economies, it becomes possible to see that the gift economy is not a rare survival but rather a central element of contemporary society and indeed the contemporary economy. The task for social theory is not to anachronise giving but to make sense of the variety and complexity of actual contemporary giving practices. This paper offers the categories of free and positional gifts as a contribution to this analysis.
The final published version of this paper can be found at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1368431014566562