No theory forbids me to say "Ah!" or "Ugh!", but it forbids me the bogus theorization of my "Ah!" and "Ugh!" - the value judgments. - Theodor Julius Geiger (1960)

Fidelity and Gratitude


Fidelity is a universal sociological pattern that is essential for maintaining relationships and societal structures. It’s significant in social interactions across various relationships, including domination, subordination, equality, opposition, friendship, family, state, love, and professional groups. Fidelity acts as a second-order sociological form that preserves relationships beyond their initial motives or conditions.

Fidelity complements other factors like individual interests, suggestion, force, idealism, habit, duty, love, and inertia. Without fidelity, these factors alone would not suffice to prevent societal breakdown. Fidelity - as a psychological disposition - often substitutes for other emotions; it maintains relationships even when the initial feelings or reasons for the relationship have faded. If love alone can sustain a relationship, fidelity might seem redundant. But fidelity ensures the relationship's duration when initial emotions or conditions no longer suffice. It’s a psychological state that maintains relationships independently of specific emotional or volitional content. So, societal structures can remain stable independently of their original motivations. For example, renegades show intense loyalty to new affiliations, often more than native members. The renegades are consciously aware of their inability to return to their previous affiliations, thereby making their new loyalty stronger.

Fidelity is a sociological affect rather than a purely individual emotion. It focuses on preserving relationships rather than personal well-being or the well-being of others. This preservation-oriented nature of fidelity makes it a vital aspect of social life, contributing to the stability and continuity of societal structures despite the fluctuating nature of individual emotions and interactions.


Gratitude, like fidelity, also contributes to maintaining societal cohesion. Unlike legal obligations that enforce reciprocity in human interactions, gratitude operates in domains without legal constraints. It supports bonds through voluntary acts of giving and receiving, and complements the legal order by promoting social balance where laws cannot reach.

Gratitude originates from personal interactions and represents the subjective continuation of these interactions; it lingers in the mental and emotional realms. This lingering effect - the moral memory of humanity - motivates future actions and maintains social bonds even after the initial act of giving or receiving is long past. Without gratitude, society as we know it would disintegrate, as this emotion underpins countless social interactions and relationships.
Gratitude transforms personal exchanges into lasting social connections, often enriching them with a nuanced sense of duty and appreciation. This transformation is not limited to the immediate exchange of goods or services but extends to a broader, often unconscious, influence on future interactions.

Gratitude involves an inherent asymmetry in the exchange, where the initial act of giving is done freely, while the reciprocation carries an obligation. This creates a unique dynamic where the return gift can never fully match the freedom of the original act, leaving a sense of indebtedness and a continuous moral bond. This ongoing sense of gratitude contributes to the depth and stability of social relationships. It remains an enduring feeling that binds individuals together, even when other aspects of their relationship may change.

 Simmel, G. (1908), Exkurs über Treue und Dankbarkeit, in: Soziologie - Untersuchungen über die Formen der Vergesellschaftung, p. 581—598, Leipzig: Duncker & Humblot.