Winner, French Voices Award for excellence in publication and translation.
When it comes to giving, philosophers love to be the most generous. For them, every form of reciprocity is tainted by commercial exchange. In recent decades, such thinkers as Derrida, Levinas, Henry, Marion, Ricoeur, Lefort, and Descombes, have made the gift central to their work, haunted by the requirement of disinterestedness.
As an anthropologist as well as a philosopher, Hénaff worries that philosophy has failed to distinguish among various types of giving. The Philosophers’ Gift returns to Mauss to reexamine these thinkers through the anthropological tradition. Reciprocity, rather than disinterestedness, he shows, is central to ceremonial giving and alliance, whereby the social bond specific to humans is proclaimed as a political bond. From the social fact of gift practices, Hénaff develops an original and profound theory of symbolism, the social, and the relationship between self and other, whether that other is an individual human being, the collective other of community and institution, or the impersonal other of the world.