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Giving Social Ties, Reciprocity in Modern Society

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 August 2006

Frank Adloff
Institute of Sociology, University of Goettingen, Goettingen, Germany [].
Steffen Mau
Graduate School of Social Sciences, University of Bremen [].
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The purpose of this paper is to discuss the meaning of giftgiving and reciprocity in modern society and thereby following the pointers left by Marcel Mauss. A critique will be made of the dichotomy of self-interest and normatively orientated action that forms the basis of sociology. For this conceptual dichotomization has caused forms of social interaction that cannot be localized either on the side of self-interest or on that of morality. It is the logic of the gift and the reciprocity thus evoked that in our view accompanies and structures all forms of interaction, from the social micro to the macrolevel. It is shown that in modern societies gifts and reciprocities form their own orders of interaction, and not only on a microsocial level. The principle of reciprocity even accompanies as a rule transfers owing to (state) compulsion as well as economic, selective exchange. As a basic principle of processes of sociation it is, fundamentally, present everywhere and in some areas it is explicitly and openly in effect (for example in welfare state transfers). Sociology has for too long overlooked the fact that this principle cannot be traced back either to normativist or to utilitarian explanations and nevertheless represents a principle of construction of modern societies.

Research Article
2006 Archives Européenes de Sociology

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