Keith - your general question about reciprocity aside, I'm sure that your characterisation of hunter-gatherers can be challenged, e.g.
Forager-Traders in South and Southeast Asia: Long-Term Histories Edited by Kathleen D. Morrison & Laura L. Junker (2002) "In both South and Southeast Asia, many upland groups make a living - in whole or part - through gathering and hunting, producing not only subsistence goods but commodities destined for regional and even world markets. These forager-traders have had an ambiguous position in ethnographic analysis, variously represented as relics, degraded hunter-gatherers, or recent upstarts. Forager-Traders in South and Southeast Asia adopts a multidisciplinary approach to these groups, presenting a series of comparative case-studies that analyse the long-term histories of hunting, gathering, trading, power relations, and regional social and biological interactions in this critical region. This book is a fascinating and important addition to the current ‘revisionist’ debate, and a unique attempt to re-conceptualize our knowledge of forager-traders within the surrounding context of complex polities, populations and economies in South and Southeast Asia."
Huon, As you know, I am all for going back to big IK, but the word reciprocal and reciprocity has a very wide set of meanings. For example:
1. Concerning each of two or more persons or things.
2. Interchanged, given, or owed to each other: reciprocal agreements to abolish customs duties; a reciprocal invitation to lunch.
3. Performed, experienced, or felt by both sides: reciprocal respect.
4. Interchangeable; complementary: reciprocal electric outlets.
5. Grammar Expressing mutual action or relationship. Used of some verbs and compound pronouns.
6. Mathematics Of or relating to the reciprocal of a quantity.
The same online dictionary lists separately the meaning of reciprocity in at least eight disciplines, including Canadian politics. Fortunately for us, cultural anthropology is one of them: "In cultural anthropology and sociology, reciprocity is a way of defining people's informal exchange of goods and labour; that is, people's informal economic systems. It is the basis of most non-market economies. Since virtually all humans live in some kind of society and have at least a few possessions, reciprocity is common to every culture." It goes on to summarize the three types of reciprocity identified by Marshall Sahlins in his "Sociology of primitive exchange".
So, by listing Thurnwald, Malinowski, Mauss and Levi-Strauss in the invitation to this thread, I was hoping for a discussion that might pay some lip service to the modern anthropological tradition. But by booting it into the 18th century, you forced me to think more carefully about the definition. I went back to Alvin Gouldner's The norm of reciprocity, a major influence on Sahlins's essay. I recommend it; it's very thorough.
Gouldner situates his inquiry in the tradition of functionalism. He finds that several people who claimed reciprocity is very important either didn't define it (Hobhouse, Thurnwald) or mixed it up with other concepts like complementarity (Parsons). He gives pride of place to Malinowski's Crime and Custom, which is indeed a fine source. Malinowski asked why people do what is expected of them and was not satisfied with answers like the conscience collective. He give primacy to the obligation to return a favour. I would suggest that this is still its common meaning in English: reciprocity refers first to an exchange of favours.
It has long seemed to me that this discourse shades imperceptibly into utilitarianism, quite clearly so in the case of Gouldner and Sahlins, but also less obviously in Levi-Strauss. So that was the terrain I was hoping to open up for discussion. It doesn't have to be grounded in intellectual history. Anything goes in the OAC after all.
One point that is significant then is that use implies both depletion and active regeneration. Does it necessarily weigh on the idea of endurance of resource? That is, to say that, despite the knowledge that community is dependent on perspectives, that the established resource will endure? Reciprocity as a 'bourgeois' phenomenon is perhaps another way of talking about the suspicion people have under modern conditions that substances endure - 'all that that is solid melts into air'.