Anthropology identifies sharing as an indispensable component of human history. Belk (2020) defines sharing as a process of distributing what belongs to us to other individuals and, at the same time, an act of receiving something from others for a common purpose. For a more precise conceptualization of the phenomenon, the author suggests identifying two sharing models. The first consists in maternal care, which well expresses the idea of free and natural sharing; the second has to do with the family, a social context in which goods are jointly owned and enjoyed (Belk 2010). In both cases, the commercial dimension is excluded, and sharing practices are repositories of feelings of solidarity and bonding.
However, Belk’s analysis also introduces the ‘‘sharing’’ construct into consumer research exactly as a way to open a new front in the theory of resource circulation by describing a neglected mode of resource circulation. Indeed the definition of sharing is deeply embedded with economics.
Marcel Mauss (1923) adopts the term “gift economy” to describe those activities, such as the exchange of goods, which represent the most common and universal ways to create social relations and solidarity; Karl Polanyi (1944), while highlighting how the market activities of traditional societies were highly diversified and multifunctional, underlined how the social behaviour of the individual was influenced not only by self-interest but also by a wide range of social motivations: “man's economy is immersed in his social relations. Man does not act in such a way as to safeguard his individual interest in the possession of material goods, he acts in such a way as to safeguard his social position, his social claims, his social advantages”; and, finally, Price (1975) describes it as “the most elementary form of economic distribution that has characterized hominid societies”.
Recently the term has come back into vogue to describe the set of new practices of sharing goods and services developed in the first decade of the new millennium due to the joint effect of technological (the development of web 2.0 and the availability of apps that disintermediate relations between producers and consumers), socio-cultural (the emergence of new forms of relationship based on collaboration and sharing) and economic processes (birth of new markets for investors and professional opportunities for individuals and families affected by the crisis) and that goes under the hat of the Sharing Economy. The latter refers to a new class of mainly B2C companies providing a platform for people to have access to unused resources, skills, services.