Trying to make sense of second section of Nietzsche’s On the Genealogy of Morals, i can’t help but position it next to Mauss’ The Gift. [Note: gift does not just mean physical object, or a gift to God, but the general notion of gifting, or offering something of oneself to another.]
Mauss’ theory of reciprocity is devoid of morals. He focuses entirely on how people give, receive and reciprocate. Morality come into play from two directions: 1) from where does the original gift come from? 2) what if the gift remains unreciprocated?
Mauss seems to imply that the gift is pure. Even it it were pure, it is bound up in expectation and that inherently places guilt on the receiver’s end. Thus, one inherently knows that by gifting, one is engaging in a power struggle. Thus, the gift is no longer pure; it is part of the struggle for power and indebtedness. Another possibility is that the gift comes straight from a feeling of guilt and thus the gift is an attempt to make an offering, to settle a score. In either case, the process of gifting immediately constructs a power differential between two people.
In arguing about indebtedness, Nietzsche notes that the indebted internalizes the guilt imposed by the debt. The ongoing debt instills a guilt within the creditor as well. The brilliance of Christianity is that both are relieved of this internalized guilt by being permanently indebted to God first and foremost.
Returning to the gift, what happens when the gift is not reciprocated? Mauss argues that it simply means an end to the relationship, but he never deals with guilt. Does the receiver feel guilt in not reciprocating? In what conditions?
[On a personal note, i know that i feel guilt when i receive a gift that i cannot reciprocate, even if i didn’t ask for the gift in the first place. Is that internalized guilt logical or, drawing from Nietzsche, a product of Christian culture? How can/should i frame the giver?]
What other theories exist on the process of gifting and reciprocation? How do they all get pieced together?
[Warning dear blog readers… i’m taking a rhetoric class this semester and trying to make sense of various theories, often for the first time.]