Mauss, Marcel

Mauss, Marcel

(märsĕl`mōs), 1872–1950, French sociologist and anthropologist. Nephew of eminant sociologist Émile DurkheimDurkheim, Émile
, 1858–1917, French sociologist. Along with Max Weber he is considered one of the chief founders of modern sociology. Educated in France and Germany, Durkheim taught social science at the Univ. of Bordeaux and the Sorbonne.
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, Mauss graduated from the Univ. of Bordeaux and the École Pratique des Hautes Études, where he later served on the faculty. He also taught at the Collège de France and cofounded the Institut d'Ethnologie of the Univ. of Paris. Advocating a close relationship between anthropology and psychology, he sought to practice Durkheim's rules of sociological method by relating the collective representations of a group to its social organization. He studied the phenomena of primitive exchange as a total institution that structures social bonds and found that although giving, receiving, and repaying appear to be voluntary and disinterested, they are in fact obligatory and interested. Mauss's writings include The Gift (1925), a well-known work on the process of exchange, and a collection of essays entitled Sociology and Anthropology (1950).
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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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.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.
References in periodicals archive ?
Mauss, Marcel. The Gift: The Form and Reason for Exchange in Archaic Societies.
HUBERT, Henri; MAUSS, Marcel. "Ensaio Sobre a Natureza e a Funcao do Sacrificio".
Mauss, Marcel. The Gift: Forms and Functions of Exchange in Archaic Societies.
(25.) Mauss, Marcel. The Gift, quoted in Carrier, "The Rituals of Christmas," Unwrapping Christmas, p.