Social Norms and Economic Theory

Social Norms and Economic Theory Abstract One of the most persistent cleavages in the social sciences is the opposition between two lines of thought conveniently associated with Adam Smith and Emile Durkheim, between homo economicus and homo sociologicus. Of these, the former is supposed to be guided by instrumental rationality, while the behavior of the latter is dictated by social norms. In this paper I characterize this contrast more fully, and discuss attempts by economists to reduce normoriented action to some type of optimizing behavior. Social norms, as I understand them here, are emotional and behavioral propensities of individuals. Are norms rationalizations of self-interest? Are norms followed out of self-interest? Do norms exist to promote self-interest? Do norms exist to promote common interests? Do norms exist to promote genetic fitness? http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Journal of Economic Perspectives American Economic Association

Social Norms and Economic Theory

Journal of Economic Perspectives, Volume 3 (4) – Nov 1, 1989

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Publisher
American Economic Association
Copyright
Copyright © 1989 by the American Economic Association
Subject
Symposia
ISSN
0895-3309
DOI
10.1257/jep.3.4.99
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Abstract One of the most persistent cleavages in the social sciences is the opposition between two lines of thought conveniently associated with Adam Smith and Emile Durkheim, between homo economicus and homo sociologicus. Of these, the former is supposed to be guided by instrumental rationality, while the behavior of the latter is dictated by social norms. In this paper I characterize this contrast more fully, and discuss attempts by economists to reduce normoriented action to some type of optimizing behavior. Social norms, as I understand them here, are emotional and behavioral propensities of individuals. Are norms rationalizations of self-interest? Are norms followed out of self-interest? Do norms exist to promote self-interest? Do norms exist to promote common interests? Do norms exist to promote genetic fitness?

Journal

Journal of Economic PerspectivesAmerican Economic Association

Published: Nov 1, 1989

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