The Coming of the Corporate Gift

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Corporate gifts - from philanthropic donations to individual reward schemes –attract considerable attention from scholars for the kinds of moral, economic and political logics that motivate them. This article considers the gifts that transnational corporations give to producers and draws from Marilyn Strathern’s writings on exchange and personhood in order to reverse dominant analyses. Focused on the gifting of gold coins to industrial workers at a global manufacturing unit in India it brings together field based observations with a diverse field of literature on the gift in anthropology. Against an analysis that sees the corporate gift harnessed directly to a corporate bottom line this article proposes an alternative accounting that uses Strathern’s notions of ‘elicitation’, ‘revelation’ and ‘detachment’ to explore the contours of knowledge, personhood and relationality in the transaction. If corporate gifts have powerful effects, the article argues, it is because they establish difference between the person of the giver and the person of the recipient and because they materialise actions, desires and capacities that accrue to and transform the recipients rather than simply because they are vessels for the interests of global capital. As social theory confronts the political economy of corporate giving, Strathern’s writings prompt provocative questions about agency and power that challenge the hegemonic status of the modern corporation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)121-145
Number of pages15
JournalTheory, Culture & Society
Volume31
Issue number2-3
Early online date23 Jan 2014
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2014

Keywords

  • Strathern
  • corporation
  • gift
  • capitalism
  • labour
  • India

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