Joseph Wresinski, Anthropologist – Alain Caillé

Violence and the Benevolent Gift – Rethinking Relationships – Saturday June 10

Alain Caille draws attention to the similarities between the work of Joseph Wresinski and the work of the secular socialist anthropologist Marce Mauss, particularly in his groundbreaking essay, The Gift (1924).

Mauss’ work shows that “primitive” societies are not based on the market, barter, exchange, or contracts, but rather on what he calls the triple obligation – to give, to receive, and to reciprocate. What turns poverty into extreme poverty is not so much the lack of the material goods needed for subsistance, but the prohibition (more than the simple impossibility) imposed on those in extreme poverty on giving. They find themselves as a result outside the community.

Mauss, speaking of the obligation to give, and Wresinski, speaking of the prohibition on giving, both are ultimately telling us the same thing. The Gift demonstrates that gifts given to those who cannot return them ultimately serve to annihilate those who receive them.


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