Reciprocity: A Fragile Equilibrium

Netherlands Journal of Legal Philosophy, Special Issue: Reciprocity and the Normativity of Legal Orders, eds. Hans Lindahl and Bart van Klink., 2014/2, pp. 172-184. ISSN 2213-0713

Posted: 6 Feb 2015 Last revised: 31 Jan 2017

See all articles by Pauline C. Westerman

Pauline C. Westerman

University of Groningen, Faculty of Law

Date Written: May 4, 2014

Abstract

Reciprocity may serve to explain or to justify law. In its latter capacity, which is the topic of this article, reciprocity is commonly turned into a highly idealized notion, as either a balance between two free and equal parties or as the possibility of communication tout court. Both ideals lack empirical reference. If sociological and anthropological literature on forms of exchange is taken into account, it should be acknowledged that reciprocal relations are easy to destabilize. The dynamics of exchange invites to exclusion and inequality. For this reason reciprocity should not be presupposed as the normative underpinning of law, but law should be presupposed in order to turn reciprocity into a desirable ideal.

Keywords: reciprocity, exchange-theory, natural law theory, dyadic relations, corrective justice.

Suggested Citation

Westerman, Pauline C., Reciprocity: A Fragile Equilibrium (May 4, 2014). Netherlands Journal of Legal Philosophy, Special Issue: Reciprocity and the Normativity of Legal Orders, eds. Hans Lindahl and Bart van Klink., 2014/2, pp. 172-184. ISSN 2213-0713, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2560322

Pauline C. Westerman (Contact Author)

University of Groningen, Faculty of Law ( email )

9700 AS Groningen
Netherlands

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