MAUSS, MARCEL (1872–1950), French ethnologist, sociologist, historian of religion, and polyhistorian. Born at Epinal, Mauss was a nephew of Emile *Durkheim, who guided his education and greatly influenced him. His early interests were mainly philosophy and the history of religion. He taught the latter subject throughout his life, but enriched the entire domain of social science and contributed to the growth of the French school of anthropology. Mauss was professor of the history of religions of noncivilized peoples at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes in Paris and also taught at the Collège de France. In 1925 he helped to found the ethnological institute of Paris University, of which he became joint director. He worked with his uncle in both practical and theoretical studies, carrying forward some of Durkheim's basic ideas such as the total social fact, collective representations, and the correspondence of morphological social structure with moral, legal, and symbolic facts. He was one of the team of young scholars assembled by Durkheim for his journal L'Année sociologique (1898–1913), and directed its section on religion. He revived the journal after World War I. Of Mauss's works on anthropology, the best known outside France is Essai sur le Don (1926; The Gift, 1954), an elaborate study of the relation between exchange patterns and social structure. Mauss was active in French political life participating in the support of *Dreyfus, and in the socialist and cooperative movements. He never recovered from the mental breakdown caused by the brutalities of the German occupation, though he published two more works before his death.


C. Lévi-Strauss, in: G. Gurvitch and W.E. Moore (eds.), Twentieth Century Sociology (1945), 503–37; idem, in: M. Mauss, Sociologie et anthropologie (1950), introd.; R. Needham, in: E. Durkheim and M. Mauss, Primitive Classification (1963), introd.; S. Lukes, in: IESS, 10 (1968), 78–82; J. Gugler, in: Homme, 64 (1964), 105–12 (bibliography).

[Ephraim Fischoff]

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.