Mana; or, the Floating Signifier
This chapter examines Claude Lévi-Strauss's critique of mana, a concept introduced by Marcel Mauss in The Gift. Mauss defined mana as “magical, religious, and spiritual power,” a power the inhabitants of Polynesia believed to be inherent in a gift, forcing it to return to the gift giver at some later point. It is of crucial importance to Mauss's theory of mana that the character of the spirits alive inside the gift must change over time. Most authors commenting on Mauss's writings criticized and rejected the term mana as he used it. Unlike most critics, however, Lévi-Strauss did not want merely to abandon the term mana but sought to endow it with a more precise definition. This chapter analyzes Lévi-Strauss's argument that mana does not belong to the order of reality but solely to the order of signs, a view which is based on the totality of signification. It also considers Lévi-Strauss's notion of “floating signifiers” and how mana relates to symbolic exchange.
Columbia Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.
If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.
To troubleshoot, please check our FAQs, and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us .