Reciprocity is different from sharing and dividing, as mutuality is its defining property. If a transaction is reciprocal, we can establish a link between an individual act of provisioning and an individual benefit.
People don't want to be suckers Elinor Ostrom
# The Features of Reciprocity - conveys the idea of a balance of comparable mutual sacrifices (Alfred Gell (1999: 88). - among generations: not necessarily a relation between interacting contemporarians, or adjacent generations (parents -> children), but according to Thomas Widlok:
"To consider it to be mutual, we would need to stretch it further by equating the parent who provides for today’s children with the children of tomorrow’s parents, i.e. conceiving of the grandchildren as receiving back from their own parents what their grandparents have provided to these parents when they were bringing them up."
- Evolutionary anthropologists, human behavioural ecologists and evolutionary economists or psychologists tend to interpret pro-social, "altruistic" acts, as something that it ultimately benefiting the performer. This way the can stick to the conventional vision of the human being and its calculative rationality, while acknowledging that humans indeed sometimes do things for one another. According to Widlock:
The notion of reciprocity allows the accommodation of such pro-social acts in a closed universe of material survival pressures, and as an expression of mechanical processes of selection. Such assumptions explain the tenacity with which many researchers insist to see reciprocity where there is no evidence for it. ...Taken together, the ethnographic record of sharing and the numerous (wo)man years of field experience that they represent strongly point away from reciprocity.
- reciprocal flows can be visible (money, material goods) or tend to be invisible (admiration, followership)
# Sources Thomas Widlok (2017): "The Anthropology of the Economy of Sharing" Oxford: Routledge.