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The Function of Gift Exchange in Stendhal and Balzac


Doreen Thesen

Twentieth-century French thinkers such as Marcel Mauss, Georges Bataille, Jean Baudrillard, and Alain Caillé (a member of the MAUSS group, an acronym for Mouvement Anti-Utilitariste dans les Sciences Sociales) have launched repeated attacks on economism and have proposed the gift as an alternative form of social regulation. In this book, a selection of writings by Stendhal and Balzac is studied to see how gift exchange functions in these authors’ representations of France in the early nineteenth century, a period during which money emerged as a universal social mediator. The gift is studied from two main perspectives: true gift as a means of establishing a positive relationship and gift as a façade masking and facilitating commercial transactions.