Building solidarity through generalized exchange: A theory of reciprocity

Linda D. Molm, Jessica L. Collett, David R. Schaefer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

397 Scopus citations


Despite the prevalence of generalized exchange in social life, few studies have investigated the classic anthropological prediction that generalized (indirect) exchange produces greater social solidarity than restricted (direct) exchange. Building on recent work comparing negotiated and reciprocal forms of direct exchange, the authors develop a theory of reciprocity in exchange. The theory argues that two structural characteristics of reciprocity distinguish among all three forms of exchange and affect the emergence of social solidarity through three causal mechanisms. Experimental results provide strong support for the causal logic of the theory and for the predicted ordering of subjective dimensions of solidarity across the three forms of exchange, with generalized indirect exchange > reciprocal direct exchange > negotiated direct exchange.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)205-242
Number of pages38
JournalAmerican Journal of Sociology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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