Abstract

This article develops a critique of the dyadic model of consumer gift giving and an extension of the classic paradigm of gift giving as elaborated in fundamental anthropological and sociological texts. I conceptualize and present empirical evidence for the notion of a consumer gift system, a system of social solidarity based on a structured set of gift exchange and social relationships among consumers. Social distinctions, norm of reciprocity, and rituals and symbolisms are defined as key characteristics of a consumer gift system and are shown to be present in peer-to-peer music file sharing at Napster. Implications for extant research on solidarity, gift giving, and consumption are discussed, and future research directions are provided.

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