Friday, November 4, 2016

distinguishing types of general reciprocity (again)

Zeba Crook is not persuaded by Stephan Joubert, summarized in the last article. Crook disputes Joubert's interpretation both of the literary sources (viz., Joubert has treated Seneca's idealizing and prescriptive text as though it were descriptive) and of the behaviors and motivations typical of each type of reciprocity. Most generally, it's nearly impossible to make a clean distinction between the categories:

"In order to begin to understand the similarities and differences between patronage and benefaction it helps to open with the observation that patronage and benefaction are two types of general reciprocity. As Joubert rightfully points out, they are closely related but not entirely synonymous. However, as he admits on occasion, there was considerable overlap, not the least of which concerned the language used to refer to each...When we allow the common elements to cancel each other out, all that appears to distinguish patronage and euergetism is that patronage was more prone to being political, exploitative, and elitist than was euergetism. In the end, however, we find that the same person could be called a patron and a benefactor (as we shall see below), but it had more to do with the nature of the offering than with the exploitation, real or potential. That is, patronage occurred on a daily level, and tended to have to do with survival (including here career posts), while in contrast benefaction occurred sporadically and tended to have to do with luxury (games, buildings, etc.). Patronage tended to occur between individuals, and thus lent itslef more to exploitation (on this Joubert and Batten are right); this is because it was easier for a patron to exploit an individual relying on his or her largesse (say in the form of a promise of a feast or by forcing a client to follow him or her around town) than it was to exploit a city or association. Nonetheless, exploitation is a secondary feature of patronage, not a defining characteristic of it. Conversely, benefactions tended to be directed at groups of people, like countries, cities, and associations.

"By way of illustrating the difficulty of distinguishing patronage and benefaction too starkly based on any standard, consider the following examples. Were the gods patrons or benefactors? In some instances, what they gave to humans had to do with survival and was given to individual humans (worshippers). This would make them patrons. In some cases, however, the gods gave to 'the Greeks' or to all humanity, and this would have made them benefactors. Is a god who heals a person once a benefactor, but one who establishes a long-standing relationship with that person a patron? Is a slave owner who manumits a slave, something that happens only once, a benefactor? Or if she does so only as a means of extending the service of the slave while receiving credit for manumitting a slave in her service is she a patron? Is the Emperor a patron when he provides a senatorial position and a benefactor when he funds a games [sic]? Cannot what a patron gives be called a benefaction? These questions are rhetorical; their point is to illustrate that the general tendencies of patronage and benefaction do not override the fact that they are often extraordinarily difficult to distinguish from one another." (Reconceptualizing Conversion: Patronage, Loyalty, and Conversion in the Relgions of the Ancient Mediterranean, 64-66) 

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