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On the Feasibility of Power and Status Ranking in Traditional Setups

  • Petros Sekeris


    (CRED - Center of Research in the Economics of Development - Facultés Universitaires Notre Dame de la Paix (FUNDP) - Namur)

  • Jean-Philippe Platteau

    (CRED - Center of Research in the Economics of Development - Facultés Universitaires Notre Dame de la Paix (FUNDP) - Namur)

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.

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Paper provided by HAL in its series Post-Print with number halshs-00122421.

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Date of creation: 01 Sep 2010
Date of revision:
Publication status: Published in Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, 2010, 38 (3), pp.267-282. <10.1016/j.jce.2010.07.006>
Handle: RePEc:hal:journl:halshs-00122421
DOI: 10.1016/j.jce.2010.07.006
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