I’m wrestling with thorny French post-somethingist Jean Baudrillard. The excerpt (below) is from William Merrin’s Baudrillard and the Media. It’s following up on Durkheim’s and Mauss’ discussion of the gift exchange process by which some cultures give material good away (as gifts) rather than accumulating them:
Mauss saw the gift as having been historically swept aside by the victory of rationalism and mercantilism. In raising the principles of individual profit, utility and formal contractual relations these had turned humanity from a collective being into an ‘economic animal’: a Homo oeconomicus that was little more than ‘a calculating machine.’ However, in arguing that the ‘ancient principles’ of the gift had not been completely superseded and in seeing them as reappearing in our society ‘like the resurrection of a dominant motif long forgotten,’ Mauss develops a genealogy, adopted by the Durkheimian tradition and found again in Baudrillard. This genealogy sees a mode of relations destroyed by the modern west which replaces it with an inferior, individualized mode, while retaining a belief in the continued presence and possibility of this collective mode as a radical principle opposed to and capable of transforming the contemporary world. If ultimately Mauss’s hopes for a limited reform of capitalism through the gift are unconvincing, his desire to return to its principles and to another, deeper mode of existence carries more weight. (14)
I’m not sure what to do with this yet in terms of my own project, but it’s an interesting idea.