Gifts and social relations: The mechanisms of reciprocity

  • Komter A
  • 55

    Readers

    Mendeley users who have this article in their library.
  • 45

    Citations

    Citations of this article.

Abstract

In the modern gift literature an anti-utilitarian and a utilitarian view on the gift can be distinguished. From the anti-utilitarian perspective, the freedom of the gift is seen as one of its main characteristics, while the idea that gifts are caught in a cycle of reciprocity is downplayed. In the utilitarian approach, assumptions about rational actors weighing their preferences according to some utility are pre- dominant. In the first approach, reciprocity is seen as undermining ‘genuine’ gifts. The utilitarian approach does take reciprocity into account but fails to analyse why the principle of reciprocity is so effective. This article attempts to provide such an explanation. By illuminating both the variety of the forms of the gift and the uni- versality of the underlying principle, it is argued that gifts reflect a multi-purpose symbolic ‘utility’ that transcends both utilitarianism and anti-utilitarianism.

Author-supplied keywords

  • (Anti-)utilitarianism
  • Gift-giving
  • Gifts
  • Reciprocity
  • Ritual
  • Social relations

Get free article suggestions today

Mendeley saves you time finding and organizing research

Sign up here
Already have an account ?Sign in

Find this document

Authors

  • Aafke Komter

Cite this document

Choose a citation style from the tabs below

Save time finding and organizing research with Mendeley

Sign up for free