Motives

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The classical sociologists considered solidarity, on the one hand, as based

on affective ties and shared norms and values, often associated with the

small-scale communities of traditional society; on the other hand, the

more instrumental ties of association were supposed to be characteristic

of more complex societies where functions are specialized and where

market relations have replaced the former subsistence economy. All these

authors emphasize that their distinctions between different forms of solidarity

are ideal types: in concrete reality the bonds between people often

show a certain mixture. The same idea returns in Mauss’s essay on the

gift: altruism and selfishness are intermingled in the act of giving. It is exactly

this mixture that makes gift exchange a self-sustaining system: those

who refuse to take part in it place themselves outside the community.

In more modern theories on solidarity this important insight has been

lost.

In Malinowski’s assumption of a continuum of feelings involved in

gift giving, the different types of motives underlying solidarity can be

recognized: pure gifts, given out of affection, versus barter, a form of

exchange that is mainly profit-oriented. Different types of motives in gift

giving were thought to belong to different types of social relationships.

The ideaof aconnection between the nature of the feelings involved in gift

exchange and the type of social relationship in which it takes place returns

in the work of Gouldner and Sahlins. Giving “something for nothing,”

without any concrete stipulation of returns, is supposed to occur within

the circle of close kin, whereas the “attempt to get something for nothing”

is more likely with strangers.

In addition to the affection-instrumentality dimension, another significant

motive to give and to create social ties comes to the fore, in

particular in the work of Simmel, Mauss, Lґevi-Strauss, and Gouldner:

power. Inmuch anthropological writing the exchange of gifts is analyzed

as ac ontest of honor. This type of gift giving may be seen as aba ttle revolving

around the authority, status, and prestige of the partners involved

in the exchange. It is Gouldner’smerit to have analyzed the different ways

power may be implied in gift exchange. Although we may be inclined to

think that equivalence or equality – tit-for-tat – is the main principle

of exchange, Gouldner points to the different forms that asymmetrical

reciprocity may take. The notion of honor, the dangers of starting and

maintaining an exchange process, and the rivalry and power that may

color it are regular aspects of gift exchange and of attempts to create social

order. Social order comprises not only ties rooted in harmony and

peace but power and authority relations as well. The theory of the gift

has made this particularly clear.

Equality or equivalence, the idea of quid pro quo, is a common basis of

exchange processes as well. To Malinowski the “pure gift” and barter are

the more exceptional motives to give, and equality or equivalence is the

most common pattern of exchange.Whether equality is in fact the main

basis of exchange, more important than, for instance, power, affectivity,

or instrumentality, remains a matter of empirical verification, but that

it is a regularly occurring pattern has been empirically demonstrated in

Chapter 2.

The theory of the gift reveals a range of motives returning in theories

of solidarity, but the variety of motives present in gift theory is larger.

The various types of motives underlying gift giving correspond to the

four models of people’s relations to things and to each other, as distinguished

by Alan Page Fiske. Whereas sociological theory on solidarity

mainly focuses on Fiske’s first and fourth type of relationship (affectivity

or “community,” and instrumentality or “market”), anthropological

theories on gift giving demonstrate that, in addition to affectivity and

instrumentality, also equality and power may be involved in attempts to

create or maintain social order.