The Exchange of Aesthetics: Women's Work and 'The Gift'

Melissa Tyler, Steve Taylor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

73 Citations (Scopus)


Drawing on empirical research data on the work of flight attendants, this paper will explore Marcel Mauss's theory of ‘gift’ exchange relations, with particular reference to his concern with the ‘exchange of aesthetics’ (Mauss 1954), as an analytical model which may contribute to our understanding of ‘women's work’ in contemporary Western societies, of which, we shall argue, the work of female flight attendants is a notable example. It will begin by locating the authors' analytical and theoretical concerns with ‘women's work’ within the context of recent empirical research. It will then go on to outline briefly a Maussian model of exchange relations and to identify the potential utility of this analytical model for the study of women's work. This paper then goes on to offer an analytical account of empirical research into the work of flight attendants and to analyse the ways in which airline service provision constitutes a critical case study of women's work, certain elements of which involve a form of ‘gift’ exchange relations which operate, not as an alternative to, but inside — and in the interests of — commodity exchange relations. Finally, in the light of recent feminist work, this paper will conclude by suggesting the wider implications of this analytical model for the study of gender and work.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)165-171
JournalGender, Work and Organization
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 1998


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