Jacques Godbout (The World of the Gift, 37) asks why we wrap presents only to discard the wrapping. It is a “potlatch” gesture, a gesture of excess, “an utterly gratuitous extra.” Further, “it hides what is in circulation, thus demonstrating that what counts is not the hidden object but the gesture, enhanced by the brilliance of the wrapping and, subsequently, by its squandering, when it disappears at the very moment the gift is received. What has taken so long to prepare is torn up and thrown away.”
He observes that this is the opposite of the purpose of “the tendency . . . to wrap all customer goods in plastic. . . . Here the aim of wrapping is to isolate the produce from the consumer, to ensure that nothing of the producer’s person is transmitted to the customer, not even a virus! As well, this sort of wrapping is not intended to hide anything and is often transparent.”
posted by Peter J. Leithart on Friday, June 29, 2012 at 3:46 pm
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