Marcel Mauss

By: Tor Aarestad
May 10, 2009


Dreyfusard and socialist, political activist, gregarious, bohemian and bon vivant, inspiration to Georges Bataille and the Situationists: although his Uncle Emile (Durkheim) was an inspired highbrow, MARCEL MAUSS (1872-1950) was a giant of hilo — an intellectual populist. Serious of purpose, but institutionally unhinged and informationally omnivorous, he drew in a collection of surrealists and sociologists, trained them, and sent them off to Africa to assay the range of cultural expression and human belief. He was a catalyst for Levi-Strauss through his fulgent writings on the foundational nature of gift exchange in social and cultural life — among the first to grant equal status to belief and social facts in the study of sociology. (Earlier sociologists and anthropologists considered religion and culture epiphenomenal to social relations.) Remembered by a student as a man of “inspired confusion.”


On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Olaf Stapledon, Sid Vicious, Fred Astaire, Donovan.

READ MORE about members of the Anarcho-Symbolist Generation (1864–73).


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