632 - Theories of Materiality and Exchange - Much of the reading in this course will be drawn from two major fields of theoretical discourse, Marxism and the structuralist anthropology and psychoanalysis that developed under the influence of Marcel Mauss. The apparent contrast between these fields lies in the forms of exchange they describe: economic exchange of Marxism and gift exchange of Mauss. The most salient contrast appears in their effect on material things: as economic exchange is universalized under capitalism, says Marx, "all that is solid melts into air." For Mauss, in societies structured by gift exchange, the "thing given is...invested with life". This course will be initially concerned with understanding the contrasting fates of material objects in modern and traditional societies as theorized by Marx and Mauss. We will go on to investigate recent theoretical trends that call into question the fundamental distinction between gift exchange and economic exchange. What are the consequences of such a deconstruction? We will question whether the meaning of material things is necessarily constituted in exchange: can there be a signification proper to a material thing as such? Theorists will include Marx, Mauss, Levi-Strauss, Lacan, Irigaray, Butler, Rubin, Heidegger, Derrida, Baudrillard, Goux, and Zizek.
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