Power and Prestige

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Gifts may also be inspired by a need for power and prestige or by considerations

related to reputation and fame (Bailey 1971). By means of giving a

gift we are putting ourselves in a morally superior position; we may cause

the recipient to feel indebted, sometimes to such an extent that we even

claim some rights on the basis of our gift giving. In many non-Western

cultures gift giving was inspired by rivalry: givers try to surpass one another

in generosity, thereby asserting their power. The more one gives,

the more prestige, power, and honor one is accredited with. The most

extreme example of this is the earlier mentioned potlatch (see Chapter 1).

Offering exquisite banquets, giving expensive bouquets of flowers, or organizing

fancy parties – these are all modern examples of potlatch where

the recipient is, as it were, stunned by the gift. Giving an overly generous

gift that cannot be reciprocated properly is humiliating. Giving

gifts may serve to dominate and to make others dependent upon our

benevolence and our willingness to share valuables and resources with

them.