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Rethinking the social and cultural dimensions of charitable giving

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Gifts to distant others, such as charitable giving, represent an important segment of contemporary gift-giving that has often been overlooked due to the excessive focus on dyadic giving between intimate individuals. In response, this paper adopts a sociological systemic perspective on gift-giving and focuses on charitable gifts as an emblem of postmodern gift-giving to distant others. Historical evidence and sociological theory on postmodern solidarity are combined to shed light on the fluid duality of contemporary giving and the importance of the imaginary in charitable giving. The outlined socially symbolic dimensions of charitable giving are critically examined in light of postmodern consumer culture and the recent social corporate responsibility trends. By openly engaging the proposed complexities of gift-giving, our vocabulary and understanding of postmodern giving can be revised so as to invite novel routes of investigation.
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Keywords: charitable giving; gift's imaginary; gifts to distant others; humanity; imagined community; postmodern charity; systemic perspective

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Faculty of Economics, University of Ljubljana, Ljubljana, Slovenia

Publication date: March 1, 2009

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