Give and take. Cooperation in business

Give and take. Co-operation in business, a book by Norbert Alter (The Discovery, coll. ” the texts to support / library mauss “, 2009)


The title of this book sums up his thesis : co-operation in business has nothing to selfless, a gift is never free, but requires the person who has received. The gift, in fact, cannot be reduced to altruism, but is instead a strategic way without the same for get a thing in the world of work. That however does not mean that it reduces to a pure market logic. If Norbert Alter is a specialist in the study of the operation of the business, one could extend the problem to the whole social world, for example in the family. This book, published in the collection “biblioth√®que du MAUSS” fits perfectly in his parentage, making the gift an essential cog in the proper functioning of the business, determining the degree of cooperation between employees.

The first chapter of the book is called ” Cooperate, it is to give “. The author gets right back to Marcel Mauss and his Essay on the gift by reaffirming the part ” primitive “, i.e. social exchange. The working relationships are not all governed by contracts, but by the cooperation, the exchange of type gift-counter-gift, in which it is necessary to give, receive and make. However, Norbert Alter goes further and shows that these cooperative exchanges are based on the feelings they provoke in employees, regardless of their hierarchical position in the company. The cooperation is thus based on a rationality that has nothing to do with economic rationality, since it is precisely not to aim at the maximization of personal gain, but to help others by taking time for yourself. However, as shown by the author, the people who help their colleagues do not always in a good mood. They do not hesitate to mean that a service is not ” fun “. Nevertheless, they argue in a way apparently inconsistent that they are ready to render service from the moment they are asked well. In reality, it is a way to make the people helped “debt” vis-√†-vis the co-worker who has rendered service. In addition, to signify the lack of freedom and the amount of work waiting allows the donor to increase the importance of its service and thus to confer upon him a prestige among his colleagues. The exchange can be verbal, particularly when it comes to explain the operation of a machine, a software. These exchanges are all the more important that they are not codified and therefore transmitted only by the elders of the company or persons specialized.

Read the rest of this reading note on Links to Socio

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