The Myth of Reciprocity

  • Frederic L. Pryor
  • Nelson H. H. Graburn


In anthropology, the concept of reciprocity has received great analytic stress. In part, this is because many analysts have placed a high ethical value on reciprocity, and have felt it worthwhile to study this phenomenon. In part, this is because reciprocity has been tied to certain notions about social stability. For instance, Marcel Mauss (1925) argued that various types of reciprocal exchange serve not only as a cohesive force internally, but also as a substitute or a replacement for war externally. Curiously, most anthropological analyses of reciprocity have focused on rather vague ethnographic impressions, rather than any type of quantitative evidence (a major exception is Henry, 1951). And few of the theoretical discussions about reciprocity have been accompanied by empirical evidence which permits any type of rigorous hypothesis testing. In this essay we hope to take steps in remedying this situation.


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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1980

Authors and Affiliations

  • Frederic L. Pryor
    • 1
  • Nelson H. H. Graburn
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of EconomicsSwarthmore CollegeSwarthmoreUSA
  2. 2.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of CaliforniaBerkeleyUSA

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