Reciprocity within a Community
In recent decades the broadening of the marketing concept has led many to view marketing from an exchange perspective (e.g., Bagozzi 1975a; Houston and Gassenheimer 1987; and Lusch, Brown, and Brunswick 1992). This viewpoint might categorize exchanges as internal or external to the "organization" ( Lusch, Brown and Brunswick 1992) or classify them as restricted, generalized, or complex ( Bagozzi 1975a). Central to these views is the concept of reciprocity and societal forces or norms that would stress balance in exchanges. The theoretical underpinnings of exchange theory go back to economists such as Adam Smith and anthropologists such as Levi-Strauss and Malinowski. Malinowski posited that the basis for social relations in primitive societies was the "gift" and subsequent "counter-gift." Recently Weiner ( 1992) has challenged Malinowski's interpretation of exchanges in primitive societies:
The norm of reciprocity is, in actuality a theory of economic behavior whose anthropological tenets were shaped centuries earlier. During the rise of capitalism, the give and take of reciprocity took on an almost magical, sacred power among Western economists . . . A century later this same belief in reciprocity as a regulatory mechanism was described for primitive societies when it was thought that natives lived without governing bodies or legal codes. ( Weiner 1992, 2)
Thus Weiner ( 1992) concludes that earlier interpretations of exchange behavior were biased by culturally held beliefs, and she proposes an alternative theory called Keeping-While-Giving. This theory posits that surface reciprocal exchanges are really manifestations of attempts to avoid exchanges of certain valued items while under social pressure to engage in exchanges.
This chapter discusses the prevalent view of reciprocity and then provides the viewpoint of Keeping-While-Giving. Data from field research in rural Ireland are then used to compare these contrasting theories. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the implications for exchanges within a community and a discussion of the implications for marketing theorists.