Abstract

This essay argues that during the eighteenth century the structures of exchange were defined not in terms of an opposition between gifts and commodities but between gifts and wages. This core opposition took two antithetical forms. On the one hand, it valorized liberality, love, gratitude, etc. over purely mercenary considerations. The ethos of the pure gift, far from being the product of a modern market economy, as is commonly supposed, was probably generated within the framework of this aristocratic ideology. On the other hand, a reaction against this ideology took the form of a polarity in which honest industry is privileged over clientage, servility, and idleness. Ironically, alms mistakenly given to the undeserving poor now came to be implicated in the same system of gift-exchange that bestowed honors and places by favors rather than by merit.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-315X
Print ISSN
0013-2586
Pages
pp. 1-18
Launched on MUSE
2008-10-10
Open Access
No
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