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Exchange Reciprocity

Unlike both interpersonal reciprocity and Rawlsian reciprocity, exchange reciprocity is the idea that I will do things for you because you did things for me. Let us call pure exchange reciprocity a kind of reciprocity in which the idea of exchange guides the agents’ motives. In pure exchange reciprocity, the motivation to participate in the exchange is a self- interested one. A trade or an actual contract are examples of this kind of exchange.

In contrast, when a person possesses the virtue of interpersonal reciprocity, they are moved to act as a response to the giving of the other. Practices that are embedded in communities teach children this idea from a young age, where children learn the practice of interpersonal reciprocity from the existing people in the community.17 For example, if a child sees their parent respecting and caring for grandparents and sees the grandparents caring for the parent, that child learns that this is an appropriate pattern of behavior.

Therefore, whereas exchange reciprocity is a conditional calculation, interpersonal reciprocity is a disposition to feel and respond in a certain way as a kind of respect that is also particularized and particular to the people with whom one lives in community. Consequently, exchange reciprocity is a case-by-case transaction based on an instrumental regard for the other, whereas interpersonal reciprocity is more stable and it is grounded in respect.

Interpersonal reciprocity is a virtue that serves as part of the response to the questions: which norms and values should govern our lived engagement with one another with respect to our needs for care? And how should those norms and values be embedded in broader practices and arrangements? When we explore which customary care practices could be part of a just society, we must attempt to predict the experience of living in the society with these new practices, and of evaluating how they will shape the tenor of interpersonal relationships. Interpersonal reciprocity is a partial answer to the prediction that exploitation and inequality can occur in a wide range of societies, and this virtue can be a safeguard against extreme exploitation.

Kittay’s Principle ofDoulia and Reciprocity-In-Connection

Eva Kittay has proposed that a just society will satisfy the principle of doulia, which requires

that the value of receiving care and giving care would be publicly acknowledged; that the burdens and cost incurred by doing the work of caring for dependents would not fall to the dependency worker alone; and that the commitment to preserving caring relations would be assumed by the society.

(Kittay 1999, 109)

In fact, doulia is an end-state principle requiring that dependency relations be fulfilled in a way that does not disadvantage either dependency worker or dependent charge.18 On the desirability of this state of affairs, Kittay and I agree.

I depart from Kittay, though, on the idea that embedded dependencies, or “nested dependencies,” do not give rise to an obligation to reciprocate. For Kittay, as well, doulia brings with it no moral requirements on vulnerable parties to reciprocate to the person who has cared for them.19 Although there are some situations in which it is appropriate to suspend a moral requirement for reciprocation, such as, for instance, in the case of profound cognitive disabilities, in the vast majority of cases, the receipt of care should give rise to a desire to care for the caregiver as well or to - in some other way - communicate appreciation through a genuine attempt at reciprocation.

My theory of liberal dependency care insists on the relevance of contributing to the benefits and burdens of social cooperation, and the social norm variant of interpersonal reciprocity encodes this value. For example, the social norm of interpersonal reciprocity is instantiated when a younger person cares for an elder while the elder teaches that child, and this is present in Anderson’s theorizing about her community, and identifying that elders are known to contribute knowledge to the community, such that their physical dependency is only one aspect of their status as community members. It follows, therefore, that on Anderson’s account, most elders are not entirely dependent. On my view, too, it is crucial that knowledge count as a social contribution, thereby solidifying the social value of elders.

The expectation to reciprocate is a safeguard against sedimented behaviors with varying degrees of entitlement. Consider, for instance, an affluent woman who seeks help with her children in a time of duress from a neighbor. She should experience herself as “on the hook” to do something for that neighbor, which might merely have value as the expression of gratitude. She should also consider herself positively disposed to help someone else in an emergency. A passive verbal statement to the effect that her neighbors are very kind is inadequate.

If a theory of justice bases entitlement solely on need, the theory will permit free-riders without even identifying that they are free-riders. People who are socioeconomically affluent or socially privileged in racial terms have behaviors that result from becoming shaped by interactions with others who are solicitous toward their wants. My account of interpersonal reciprocity secures at least some resources with which to guard against such a scenario. The recipient of care should almost always feel a responsibility to reciprocate in a way that they are able. Interpersonal reciprocity is an ameliorative virtue for racist/sexist hierarchical liberal Western societies in part because it undermines the required deference that is a feature of white-black racism, for instance.20

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