The only people who can truly answer your question are the engineers at Google.
However, you are correct: there is a lot of opinion about this. A good thread, if you have not already read it, is the Is Linking Dead? [webmasterworld.com] thread from this forum.
You might also want to check through the Forum Library [webmasterworld.com] - the link is located just above the Link Development title towards the top of this page. It lists some of the best threads from this Link Development forum, and has plenty of tips for a powerful linking strategy.
I think that recp. links actually harm your website ranking when these are link farms.
But I still need to know something what does Google spider, do they spider on all search engines or do they spider just sites on Google. This would make all the diff to me so if you get a recp. link to a website listed on another search engine but not on google then it might not be worth the time of day.