Reciprocity Relations

Relations of reciprocity belong to the affirmative attitudes and actions between individuals and groups. The concepts demand no further explanation. It means: giving and taking on an equal basis. The criterion is that the situation would not be differently judged or treated if the individual A stood in the place of B. Mutuality or interchangeability are other words for the same attitude. A has his interests and rights, so has B; both must be equally considered: Both must be fair and behave politely to each other if reciprocity is to be realized. (31)

Relations of this type may proceed informally, in open consideration of both-sided interests. Usually a common standard is necessary, such as a pre-existing rule or precedent from which reciprocity takes its orientation and degree. Therefore some conformity is presupposed, adaptation to prevailing manners and customs, similar conceptions of fairness and honesty founded on custom, folkways, morals, guaranteed by public opinion or Law. (31)

One cannot bring forward any biological or instinctual sources of reciprocity with certainty. A child must be trained to consideration of others. Reciprocity is at its core a rational or traditional attitude, an achievement of humanity. Reciprocity relations demand that the individual or group unit abandons the instinctual preference for its own ego or members. There is some truth, certainly little blame in the one-sided reproaches of men like Toennies or Sorokin who assert that some calculation and coldness prevails in this relation. This is due both to repression of instincts and to rationality, but this deducts nothing from the indispensability of reciprocity for the conduct of social life. (31, 32)

If unition were to be called an expansion of the ego, then an objectivating attitude towards the own person and others might be deemed a suitable expression for reciprocity. Man sees himself as one who resembles the other, neither higher nor lower. This gives him permission to assert himself, to follow his own interests and rights, but it sets consideration and respect for others as a limiting factor. "Do as thou wouldst be done by" is the rule of reciprocity. Its high moral rank is therewith established as an ideal and basic condition for social life, peace and justice. (32)

It is not easy to conform to the norms of reciprocity and still more difficult to instill them into one's flesh and blood until they become instinctual. The just man and the inborn gentleman are none too frequent specimens. The limits of reciprocity are easily and often trespassed. Left to himself the individual tends naturally to act according to his selfish trends, often unknowingly; but such transgressions are keenly felt by the offended and easily detected by the impartial observer. They are followed by resentment, disapproval, counter-actions and even punishment. Everyone wishes to be an object of consideration but not every person is ready to render this to others. Therefore the need of standards and of their application. (32)

The realm of reciprocity is very wide and different types evolve according to the given situation. (32)

The economic sphere may serve as an introduction. Let us take simple barter, goods for goods. The first condition of reciprocity is mutual agreement and satisfaction with the exchange; but the use of force, deception and exploitation of the needy or ignorant must be ruled out as violation of the other's personality and rights. Mutual satisfaction may accompany corrupt deals. Take the instance, so frequent in the past, of a trader who offered a string of glass beads to the natives in the tropics as exchange for a really valuable pearl or a ton of coconuts. (32)

He may have chuckled over this bargain but true reciprocity was missing. He would not have acted thus had he been in the opposite position. He has cheated. (33)

Business agreements are often concluded with formalities; contracts are signed and must be fulfilled. Calculations of interests precede. The conditions are laid down by men who ought to know their business and who use expert ega a(vice. T ere is no warmth in such procedures, but also no violation of reciprocity. It is unjust and one-sided to judge this relation only as the sphere of selfish considerations, as one-sided as the view of Sir Henry Maine who saw progress in society due mainly to the change from status to contract. The one way of thinking means a deprecation, the other an over-emphasis of reciprocity. (33)

Contending interests do not exclude reciprocity, either in business or otherwise. Free, fair competition belongs to it because limited self-assertion also belongs. This can be most easily demonstrated if we leave economics for a moment. The purest form of reciprocal competition occuts in sport. The rules of the game must be kept by both sides in order that the better performance may win. It is quite similar in fair business competition where we find a regulated struggle for the prize by offering better or cheaper goods and better services while avoiding any despicable means. This marks its separation from unfair and rugged competition which does not proceed from limited self-assertion but from inconsiderate selfishness on the part of individuals or groups. (33)

A second type of reciprocity relations concerns conventional social intercourse. We entered this sphere already through the instance of sportive attitude which applies no less to competition in games like chess or bridge. It can be widened to embrace the whole field of free competition, according to the ambition of individuals to win recognition for their abilities or labors in school and university, in office or army, in every endeavor to gain occupational or social success through good performance. (33)

Lastly, there are the innumerable conventional social contacts in everyday life which are friendly though falling short of close union, the life of "society," be it on a high or low social level. There is giving and taking in conversation, entertainment, in accidental and superficial meeting without gain or other object in view. Recognition of the other means being mannerly, not hurting feelings nor asking privileges, being at least friendly and helpful where possible. It also means not being too intimate or pushing when no nearer contact is intended, bordering on unition. It includes keeping to the prevailing customs, which differ in a tap-room or a select circle, between men or in mixed society. (33. 34)

Reciprocity has been explained mainly by the attitudes of individuals but is not limited to these. The intercourse of groups can be carried on in the same way after they have recognized each other. Shareholder companies form an instance, or associations of producers and consumers may trade honestly together; learned societies, cities and nations exchange civilities and honors. The diplomatic relations between States preserved at least the forms of mutual recognition and good manners for a long time, till their recent deterioration. (34)

Contending interests can often be interpreted differently in good faith and with sincere conviction by each party. Then they are not able to reach mutual agreement. Without outside help their relations would change to the antagonistic categories, but a method of settlement remains by way of reciprocity if the disagreements be submitted voluntarily or by public authorities to an independent and impartial judgment, i.e. to private or semi-public arbitration or to the Courts. The latter are also the instances which decide and punish grave offenses against reciprocity. They represent the prevailing and legal standards; by the same token their action does not violate or transgress reciprocity, as this is seen from the group. The offender may take a different attitude. Private, not excessive retaliation against violation of rights, personal insults or aggression is rooted in justified self-assertion and has therewith a proper sphere within reciprocity. This would be equally valid if the situation of A and B were to be reversed. Such a quarrel is no violation of reciprocity, not more than punishment of the culprit by Law. (34, 35)

Reciprocity and conformity with their rules of social conduct can be explained and deduced from the words: To be fair. Fairness is only a different expression for the attitude in which one sees one's-self and one's rights on the same level with others, for the objectiveness of the ego. For fairness in competition the general term: Honesty, is suitable, specifically preferred when money or goods are involved. In contending interests fairness is altered to equity and to justice, particularly when the sphere of laws has been reached. Fairness in social intercourse demands that the other's personality is not offended, therefore by .the exercise of civility and tact. (35)

Pieper summarizes the inherent rules of "society," i.e. reciprocity, as: Equity, justice (as distinct from love), politeness and tact. (35)

What would life be without the protective qualities of reciprocity? This question answers itself and leads to an adequate evaluation of reciprocity relations. They guarantee the preservation of individuality and regulate selfishness by consideration of others and conformity to standards. The star of fairness may give off cooler rays than love and devotion bestow on unition, but "each must be honored in its own place." (Pieper). (35)