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A Spiritual Economy$
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Thomas R. Blanton

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780300220407

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300220407.001.0001

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The Gift of Status

The Gift of Status

(p.76) Six The Gift of Status
A Spiritual Economy

Thomas R. Blanton, IV

Yale University Press

Studies of gift exchange have long recognized that lavish giving is associated with enhanced status. This chapter shows that status itself may sometimes be granted as a gift rather than being simply a corollary of gift exchange. Two types of status are distinguished: positional status, which refers to a particular position or role within a sociopolitical field, and accorded status, which is allocated on the basis of communal assessments regarding the excellence or exemplary manner in which one fulfills the duties and obligations associated with a particular social position. An examination of the letters of Pliny the Younger shows how patronage brokers functioned as middlemen mediating “gifts of (positional) status” from the emperor to lower-ranking (often equestrian) elites. Paul, too, makes use of the idea of “gifts of status,” as the positions of apostle, prophet, and teacher are viewed as “gifts from God” within the hierarchically organized early Christian assemblies.

Keywords:   gift, positional status, accorded status, Pliny the Younger, patronage, patronage broker, social hierarchy

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