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On the Feasibility of Power and Status Ranking in Traditional Setups

Petros Sekeris () and Jean-Philippe Platteau ()

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Abstract: This paper aims at a better understanding of the conditions under which unequal rank or power positions may get permanently established through asymmetric gift exchange when a gift brings pride to the donor and shame to the recipient. Such a framework matches numerous observations reported in the sociological and anthropological literature dealing with patronage relations in traditional setups. A central result derived from our model is that an asymmetric gift exchange equilibrium can occur only if the importance attached to social shame by a recipient is smaller than that attached to social esteem by a donor. Moreover, if this (necessary) condition is fulfilled, an asymmetric gift exchange will take place only if the recipient's productivity is neither too high nor too low. Finally, the possibility of a parasitic response of the gift recipient is more likely to be observed when the donee's sensitivity to social shame is low, or when his productivity is high.

Keywords: Social esteem; status; power; patronage; gift exchange (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2010-09-01
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Published in Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, 2010, 38 (3), pp.267-282. <10.1016/j.jce.2010.07.006>

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DOI: 10.1016/j.jce.2010.07.006

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