Reciprocity In All Its Forms Essay

1252 words - 5 pages

Reciprocity In All Its Forms

Reciprocity is symbolic of creating, maintaining, or strengthening social relationships as well as satisfying the material needs and wants of someone in need. It refers to the exchange of objects without the use of money or other media of exchange. It can take the form of sharing, hospitality, gifts, or bartering. Anthropologists identify three forms of reciprocity.

One form is generalized reciprocity, which is the giving of goods without expectation of a return of equal value at any definite future time. Generalized reciprocity occurs mainly between individuals who are emotionally attached to one another and have a responsibility to help one another on the basis of need. In the United States, parents who provide their children with shelter, food, vehicles, college educations, and interest-free loans are practicing generalized reciprocity. Giving without the expectation of a quick and equivalent return should also occur between certain other kinds of social relations, such as wives and husbands, siblings, and sometimes close friends. Among certain groups of people more goods are exchanged using this form than any other. For example, most members of small hunting and gathering groups are expected to share food and be generous with their possessions. Generalized reciprocity happens in all human populations and is the dominant mode of exchange in very small groups in which all or most members are relatives.

Another form is balanced reciprocity, in which the products exchanged are expected to have roughly equal value. Moreover, another characteristic is that there is no bargaining between the parties. The return may be expected immediately, or whenever the giver demands it, or by some specified time in the future. If the receiver does not reciprocate within the agreed upon time period then the giver doesn't continue to transfer products. As a result, the giver may be angry, may complain or gossip to others, may try to force reciprocation, or may end all relations until products of equal value are returned. Likewise, the receiver may feel embarrassed for not being able to return a product of equal value to the giver. An example of balanced reciprocity in the United States is gift giving. In political situations, cross-culturally, gift-giving ceremonies frequently are part of diplomacy and peacemaking between formerly hostile groups. The gifts exchanged represent the beginning of a new period of peaceful co-existence. Political lobbyists and sales representatives, on the other hand, sometimes use gift giving to create social bonds and to obligate people from whom the giver wants something. Since gift giving makes someone indebted it can be used to create an obligation to return a favor. In personal lives as well, the exchange of tangible objects among close kin often symbolize feelings about a relationship, sometimes better than words do. For instance, on a friend's birthday, buying a DVD in exchange for a gift...

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