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Edited by Robert M. Morgan, Janet Turner Parish and George Deitz
Chapter 12: Gratitude in relationship marketing
For centuries, gratitude has been portrayed by theologians, moral philosophers, and writers as an indispensable manifestation of virtue – an excellence of character. For example, gratitude is not only a highly prized human disposition in Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, and Hindu thought, but deemed an unrivaled quality in these traditions, essential for living life well. The consensus among the world’s religious and ethical writers is that people are morally obligated to feel and express gratitude in response to received benefits. For example, Adam Smith, the legendary economist and philosopher, proposed [in The Theory of Moral Sentiments] that gratitude is a vital civic virtue, absolutely essential for the healthy functioning of societies. (Emmons 2004: 3, internal citations removed) In 1759 (250 years ago at this writing), Adam Smith ( 2000: 94) wrote in The Theory of Moral Sentiments: “The sentiment which most immediately and directly prompts us to reward, is gratitude . . . To reward, is to recompense, to remunerate, to return good for good received.” The concept of “reward” may seem inappropriate in the realm of economic exchanges that are governed by formal and informal governance structures designed to force compliance and ensure performance. Indeed, actions prompted by structures established to mitigate opportunism and hold parties to their respective obligations hardly seem consistent with the notion of a “reward.”
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