How to understand international society differently: Mauss and the chains of reciprocity
165 - 182 p.
Chains of reciprocity, English School, intergenerational relations, international society, Mauss
In international relations, reciprocity means a phenomenon based on international law that maintains equality, continuity, and stability of cooperation between states. Most of the time, the logic of contract and rationalist perspectives prevail to deal with it. Nevertheless, reciprocity does not exclusively embody a contractual mechanism that aims at a symmetrical balance between two partners. Marcel Mauss was one of the first sociologists to observe the existence of group cohesion when studying reciprocity in his gift-giving model. Beyond a dual relationship, Mauss unveils an intergenerational solidarity that he calls “alternating and indirect reciprocity.” Implicitly, this refers to chains of reciprocity developed earlier by Malinowski. Yet, it enriches the notion by also including intergenerational links. This article proposes to extend the Maussian framework to the international level because sociology is not limited by borders of national societies as Mauss underlined himself. International chains of reciprocity are significant in several areas such as environment, cultural heritage, and economic development. By describing these chains, international relations scholars de-center the studies on reciprocity and explore the constitution of a world society. The chains of reciprocity are also very helpful to enter into a dialog with the English School both analytically (extension of the mechanisms that set up world society) and internally (contribution to the debate between pluralists and solidarists).