The semiosis of giving in many cultures has been established through prolonged ethnographic studies, normally in the context of pre-capitalist societies. This paper illustrates the role of gifts and giving, termed the economy of the offering by Pierre Bourdieu in a health and well-being business and hence directly within a western capitalist system. This paper aims to illustrate the paradox of misrecognition in an economic exchange by examining the semiosis and social processes of giving; as well as putting a dollar value on the seemingly non-economic exchange. This will come through quantitative economic data produced by the company understudy based on 14 months of sales data from 2012/13. Also qualitative ethnographic descriptions of the giving processes collected whilst working in the organisation over a three month period. The percentage of giving can vary significantly depending on the month, averaging 12.2%. More interestingly the staff in the organisation recognise the function of giving as a mechanism for generating sales and so have created complex strategies to weaponize the process, for as Bourdieu said himself “sociology is a martial art” and the empirical data in this paper verifies that.



Publication Date


Publication Title

Semiotics 2014

Organisational Unit

Peninsula Medical School