Does it refer to the fact that gift giving in modern society is affected by that economy? It feels -at least to me- way far from it, so I'm not sure my assumption is true.

Gifts are one way of defining a private world of love and ritual which is different from, and in contrast to, the impersonal capitalist economy. Yet gift giving in modern society is affected by that economy. This is most obvious in the case of monetary gifts, whose value lies entirely in the capacity to purchase things in the marketplace. However, it also exists in the case of gifts of things where those gifts consist, as most do, of things that are purchased. There is a problem here. In advanced capitalist societies, consumption by individuals of things that they do not produce is a massive activity. There is a danger here that purchased gifts will lose their significance in the face of all the things that individuals purchase for themselves. Gift giving separates a world of love and ritual from the capitalist economy, but in the end the two systems of meaning cannot be entirely separated because they are interconnected.

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2 Answers 2


That is right, it refers to the effect of the economy on giving.

The reference is carried forwards from one sentence to another, firstly the pronoun "this" (in "This is most obvious...") refers to the same effect, and the word "it" then repeats the reference. The chain of pronouns keeps the reference clear to me. The same idea is later referenced by "here".


You are correct, although it's not obvious; I understand why you hesitated. It took me several readings to convince myself that your "it" was not in fact referring to the previously mentioned "value".

@James K describes it well by noting that the "it" about which you ask, is referring to the same thing that the "This" in "This is most obvious" is referring to -- namely, as you say, the fact that "gift giving in modern society is affected by that economy".

I think that is emphasized by the parallelism created by the repeated, "in the case of".

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