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The Norm of Reciprocity: A Preliminary Statement

Alvin W. Gouldner
American Sociological Review
Vol. 25, No. 2 (Apr., 1960), pp. 161-178
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2092623
Page Count: 18
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The Norm of Reciprocity: A Preliminary Statement
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Abstract

The manner in which the concept of reciprocity is implicated in functional theory is explored, enabling a reanalysis of the concepts of "survival" and "exploitation." The need to distinguish between the concepts of complementarity and reciprocity is stressed. Distinctions are also drawn between (1) reciprocity as a pattern of mutually contingent exchange of gratifications, (2) the existential or folk belief in reciprocity, and (3) the generalized moral norm of reciprocity. Reciprocity as a moral norm is analyzed; it is hypothesized that it is one of the universal "principal components" of moral codes. As Westermarck states, "To requite a benefit, or to be grateful to him who bestows it, is probably everywhere, at least under certain circumstances, regarded as a duty. This is a subject which in the present connection calls for special consideration." Ways in which the norm of reciprocity is implicated in the maintenance of stable social systems are examined.

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