Marcel Mauss

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Mauss, Marcel


Born May 10, 1872, in Epinal; died Feb. 10, 1950, in Paris. French social anthropologist and sociologist.

Mauss held the chair in the history of the religion of noncivilized peoples at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes from 1900, and he was appointed professor of sociology at the Collège de France in 1931. Mauss was the nephew of E. Durkheim, worked closely with him, and was the leading exponent of his views. In the political sphere, Mauss supported the ideas of J. Jaurès and helped found the newspaper L’Humanité, for a time serving as its editorial secretary.

Although he adhered to Durkheim’s theory as a whole, Mauss modified some of its tenets. He did not accept Durkheim’s extreme antipsychologism and sought to reconcile sociology and psychology. In contrast to Durkheim, who viewed man as a dualistic being, embodying both an individual reality and a social reality that dominated the individual aspect, Mauss formulated the concept of the “total” man as the sum of his biological, psychological, and social traits. Mauss also placed greater emphasis on a systemic structural approach to the study of social phenomena than did Durkheim.

Mauss’ works are chiefly devoted to various aspects of life in archaic societies. His most important study is “The Gift: Forms and Functions of Exchange in Archaic Societies” (1925). In this work he shows, on the basis of extensive ethnographic and historical material, that until the development of commodity relations, the universal means of exchange was reciprocal gift-giving, in which the gifts, in theory voluntary, were in fact obligatory.

Mauss also advanced the idea of “total social facts,” stressing the comprehensive study of social facts and the identification of the most important social facts in particular social systems. These facts are at once economic, legal, religious, and aesthetic. Despite the vagueness and ambiguity of this idea, it had an influence on G. D. Gurvich and C. Lévi-Strauss. Mauss trained many specialists in ethnology, folkloristics, Indology, and historical psychology.


Oeuvres, vols. 1–3, Paris, 1968–69.
Manuel d’ethnographie. Paris, 1947.
Sociologie et anthropologie, 4th ed. Paris, 1968.


Cazeneuve, J. M. Mauss. Paris, 1968.
Cazeneuve, J. Sociologie de Marcel Mauss. Paris, 1968.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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Drawing on the economic theories of Marcel Mauss, Rosu shows how the same physical object--a coin--can function in completely different systems of meaning, depending on how it is used.
Saladin d'Anglure follows in the footsteps of Marcel Mauss and Claude Levi-Strauss, who was his colleague for seven years and provided him with advice until his death.
Ahn then reconstructs a "moral economy of debt," utilizing the notion of the "gift economy" (see Marcel Mauss, Marshall Sahlins, Pierre Bourdieu, and Jacques Derrida).
Nem holismo nem individualismo metodologicos: Marcel Mauss e o paradigma da dadiva.
The rationale is provided by a formula of Marcel Mauss included in the Convivialist Manifesto as an explanation of the "mastered confrontation" principle.
Anthropologists and sociologists have long been analyzing gifts, a classic work being that of the French sociologist Marcel Mauss who wrote a book (actually, a very long essay) titled, what else but 'The Gift,' published way back in 1925.
This absence of interest in position and gesture is particularly strange given how present the body in general has been in social sciences after the influence of works by Bourdieu, Foucault and other scholars who built on Marcel Mauss's initial insights.
The lineage of Social Anthropology emphasizes that rituals of social groups produce solidarity and is represented by Marcel Mauss, Levi-Strauss, Radcliffe-Brown, Erving Goffman and Mary Douglas, among others (21).