Gift giving in mass consumption markets

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


What types of social relationships and expressions of moral economy does gift giving foster in mass consumption markets? Approaching this issue through the literature on gift giving in advanced capitalist contexts and the sociology of markets, this study presents gifting as a micro-foundational element in contemporary markets. Analysis of 50 interviews and documentation of daily sales encounters in a computer chain store in Tel-Aviv, Israel, found that buyers and sellers there exchange three types of gifts (contractual, closing and post-sale gifts) ordered along a continuum according to degree of subordination to the market economy and logic. Empirical investigation of four research propositions derived from the literature reveals that marketplace gifting fosters various types of relationships, both horizontal and vertical. The study suggests that gifting helps constitute ephemeral ties during brief sales encounters through the invocation of archetypical social roles, which encapsulate types of social relationships with others. The discussion highlights the contribution of this study to the sociology of markets and to gift theory and presents questions for future research.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)92-112
Number of pages21
JournalCurrent Sociology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2017


  • Consumer markets
  • gift theory
  • gift-giving
  • gifts and social relationships
  • sales encounters
  • sociology of markets

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science


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