On the feasibility of power and status ranking in traditional setups

J. Platteau, Petros Sekeris

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    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.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)267-282
    Number of pages16
    JournalJournal of Comparative Economics
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - Sept 2010


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