The Economics of Human Relationships

ECONOMICS OF GIVING, RECIPROCITY AND ALTRUISM, L-A. Gerard-Varet, S-C. Kolm and J. Mercier Ythier, eds., Elsevier/North-Holland, Handbooks in Economics Series, Forthcoming

32 Pages Posted: 6 Apr 2004

See all articles by Pier Luigi Sacco

Pier Luigi Sacco

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Paolo Vanin

University of Bologna - Department of Economics

Bruna Bordoni

University of Bologna - Department of Economics

Abstract

Behind my reciprocation of a friend's gift may lie both instrumental reasons (I expect further future gifts) and 'communicative' reasons (I want to establish or confirm a friendship per se). In a theory of rational individual action, such 'communicative' reasons can be incorporated as an argument of an agent's objective function. This chapter starts by reviewing a recent literature that takes this direction and introduces 'relational' concerns through the concept of 'socially provided goods'. From a 'relational' perspective, however, individual intentions are not all that matters: a relation is characterized by the two (or more) persons linked and by the kind of link they have. This perspective, which in our view should complement the more traditional, individualistic one, is particularly suited to embed individual motivations in their social context and to study their co-evolution. In particular, we focus on the conditions under which reciprocity and altruism may survive and even spread over as social norms. Drawing from the literature on the dynamics of social norms, we argue that the combination of individual incentives and the forces of social selection may lead to a contraposition between a society's material success and its well-being, i.e., between its 'vitality' and its 'satisfaction'. Finally, we consider that the recent literature on the economic analysis of human relationships invites to a new reading of the 'classics' of economics and of moral and political philosophy. Both the new and the old literature point at the need to broaden the scope of economic modeling, to lay down the building blocks of a new, up-to-date approach to political economy that is equipped to tackle the challenges posed by advanced industrial societies in their social, cultural and economic selection dimensions.

Keywords: Altruism, Reciprocity, Socially Provided Goods, Evolution of Norms

JEL Classification: A12, B52, D64, Z13

Suggested Citation

Sacco, Pier Luigi and Vanin, Paolo and Bordoni, Bruna, The Economics of Human Relationships. ECONOMICS OF GIVING, RECIPROCITY AND ALTRUISM, L-A. Gerard-Varet, S-C. Kolm and J. Mercier Ythier, eds., Elsevier/North-Holland, Handbooks in Economics Series, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=523983

Pier Luigi Sacco

affiliation not provided to SSRN

No Address Available

Paolo Vanin (Contact Author)

University of Bologna - Department of Economics ( email )

Piazza Scaravilli 2
Bologna, BO 40126
Italy
+39-0512098120 (Phone)
+39-0512098040 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://https://sites.google.com/site/paolovanin/

Bruna Bordoni

University of Bologna - Department of Economics ( email )

Strada Maggiore 45
Bologna, 40125
Italy

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