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as personal property. Since they are not used in the productive process, the nature of their ownership is irrelevant to the Marxian thesis of primitive communism. Even then, we find that these items of personal property are seldom kept for long as private objects. Instead, they continually circulate among members of the group, and thus their use is community wide.

Hunter-gatherers generally distribute economic goods through a process known as reciprocity, which is the obligation to repay others for what they have given to or done for us, or the actual act of repaying others. Two distinct types of reciprocity, known as balanced and generalized reciprocity, exist. Balanced reciprocity occurs when individuals are obligated to provide equivalent and often immediate repayment to others. Balanced reciprocity can be identified by the fact that individuals deliberately and openly calculate what they are giving each other and openly declare the nature of the repayment to be made. Each party to the transaction expects to benefit in some way, but there is a clear expectation of mutual benefit and a lack of “exploitation.”

Generalized reciprocity occurs when individuals are obligated to give to others without expecting any immediate or equivalent repayment. As opposed to balanced reciprocity, generalized reciprocity does not involve any direct or open agreement between the parties involved. There is a general expectation that equivalent repayment of a debt shall be made, but there is no particular time limit set for the repayment, nor is there any specification as to just how the repayment shall be made. The terms of repayment in generalized reciprocity are notoriously vague. Marvin Harris (1974) has noted that one can tell whether generalized reciprocity is the prevailing mode of distribution by noticing whether people say “thank you.” As Harris (1974:124) puts it, when generalized reciprocity is the distributive mode

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