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The Gift of European Thought and the Cost of Living

Vassos Argyrou

146 pages, bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-78238-017-7 $120.00/£85.00 Hb Published (September 2013)

ISBN  978-1-78533-525-9 $24.95/£17.00 Pb Published (February 2017)

eISBN 978-1-78238-018-4 eBook

Hb Pb   Request a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format) Recommend to your Library Buy the ebook from these vendors

“…an extremely well thought out, interesting and timely piece of work… Its scope and concerns are simply exemplary: this is a book of social theory written by an anthropologist who fully uses the perspective given by his own disciplinary background to question deeply ingrained commonplaces of European thought, in particular the ‘critical tradition,’ without simply being dismissive of any use of critical thinking.”  ·  Arpad Szakolczai, University College Cork

European thought is often said to be a gift to the rest of the world, but what if there is no gift as such? What if there is only an economy where every giving is also a taking, and every taking is also a giving? This book extends the question of economies by making a case for an “economy of thought” and a “political economy.” It argues that all thinking and doing presupposes taking, and therefore giving, as the price to pay for taking; or that there exists a “cost of living,” which renders the idea of free thinking and living untenable. The argument is developed against the Enlightenment directive to think for oneself as the means of becoming autonomous and shows that this “light,” given to the rest of the world as a gift, turns out to be nothing.

Vassos Argyrou is Professor of Social Anthropology and Cultural Theory in the School of Social Sciences, University of Hull. His publications include Tradition and Modernity in the Mediterranean: The Wedding as Symbolic Struggle (Cambridge University Press, 1996), Anthropology and the Will to Meaning: A Postcolonial Critique (Pluto Press, 2002), and The Logic of Environmentalism: Anthropology, Ecology and Postcoloniality (Berghahn Books, 2005).

Subject: General Anthropology Sociology

LC: BF441 .A644 2013

BL: YC.2014.a.616

BISAC: SOC002010 SOCIAL SCIENCE/Anthropology/Cultural; SOC026000 SOCIAL SCIENCE/Sociology/General; PHI034000 PHILOSOPHY/Social

BIC: JHMC Social & cultural anthropology, ethnography; JHBA Social theory


Chapter 1. The Circle

Chapter 2. The Gift of European Thought

  • The Postcolonial
  • The Take on/of the Gift
  • The Power of Giving

Chapter 3. The Economy of Thought

  • The Phenomenon and the Phantom
  • ‘Think for yourself’
  • The Socialisation of Thought

Chapter 4. Political Economy

  • Re-volution
  • The Hegemonic
  • Identity Politics

Chapter 5. The Cost of Living

  • Thinking and not Thinking
  • Autonomy and Heteronomy
  • The Cost of Living


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