The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

2018 Edition
| Editors: Macmillan Publishers Ltd

Altruism, History of the Concept

  • Philippe Fontaine
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1057/978-1-349-95189-5_2170

Abstract

This article describes the incorporation from the early 1960s of seemingly unselfish behaviour into economics. Faced with the problem of accounting for such behaviour in a discipline that often relies on the selfishness assumption, some economists used the notion of sympathetic preferences within the self-interest model, whereas others tried instead to supplement that model with an ethically inspired model. It is unclear that in investigating seemingly unselfish behaviour, economists have gained a better understanding of its actual motivations, but in the process they have been led to take more seriously other conceptions of human being than economic man.

Keywords

Altruism Becker, G. Biology and economics Boulding, K.E. Buchanan, J.M. Charitable giving Choice Commitment Economic man Ethics and economics Family decision making family economics Free-rider problem Homo economicus Institute of Economic Affairs Non-economic behaviour Phelps, E. Philanthropy Preference Reciprocity Ricardian equivalence theorem Robertson, D. Rotten kid theorem Self-interest Sen, A. Sociobiology Titmuss, R.M. Utility interdependence Vickrey, W.S. Warm-glow hypothesis 

JEL Classifications

B0 
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Bibliography

  1. Alchian, A.A., and W.R. Allen. 1964. University economics. Belmont: Wadsworth.Google Scholar
  2. Andreoni, J. 1988. Privately provided public goods in a large economy: The limits of altruism. Journal of Public Economics 35: 57–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Andreoni, J. 1989. Giving with impure altruism: Applications to charity and Ricardian equivalence. Journal of Political Economy 97: 1447–1458.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Andreoni, J. 1990. Impure altruism and donations to public goods: A theory of warm-glow giving. Economic Journal 100: 464–477.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Arrow, K.J. 1975. Gifts and exchanges. In Altruism, morality and economic theory, ed. E.S. Phelps. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  6. Barro, R. 1974. Are government bonds net wealth? Journal of Political Economy 82: 1095–1117.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Becker, G.S. 1961. Notes on an economic analysis of philanthropy. Mimeo (April). Cambridge, MA: NBER.Google Scholar
  8. Becker, G.S. 1974. A theory of social interactions. Journal of Political Economy 82: 1063–1093.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Becker, G.S. 1976a. Altruism, egoism, and genetic fitness: Economics and sociobiology. Journal of Economic Literature 14: 817–826.Google Scholar
  10. Becker, G.S. 1976b. The economic approach to human behavior. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  11. Becker, G.S. 1981. Altruism in the family and selfishness in the market place. Economica 48: 1–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Becker, G.S. 1993. Nobel lecture: The economic way of looking at behavior. Journal of Political Economy 101: 385–409.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Becker to Tullock. 14 December 1976. Correspondence, Journal of Economic Literature Series, box 30, Mark Perlman Papers, Duke University, Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library.Google Scholar
  14. Bergstrom, T.C. 1989. A fresh look at the rotten kid theorem – and other household mysteries. Journal of Political Economy 97: 1138–1159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Bergstrom, T.C., and O. Stark. 1993. How altruism can prevail in an evolutionary environment. American Economic Review: Papers and Proceedings 83: 149–155.Google Scholar
  16. Bernheim, B.D. 1986. On the voluntary and involuntary provision of public goods. American Economic Review 76: 789–793.Google Scholar
  17. Bernheim, B.D., and K. Bagwell. 1988. Is everything neutral? Journal of Political Economy 96: 308–338.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Bernheim, B.D., and O. Stark. 1988. Altruism within the family reconsidered: Do nice guys finish last? American Economic Review 78: 1034–1045.Google Scholar
  19. Bernheim, B.D., A. Shleifer, and L.H. Summers. 1985. The strategic bequest motive. Journal of Political Economy 93: 1045–1076.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Bernstein, M.A. 2001. A perilous progress: Economists and public purpose in twentieth-century America. Princeton/Oxford: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Bolnick, B.R. 1975. Toward a behavioral theory of philanthropic activity. In Altruism, morality and economic theory, ed. E.S. Phelps. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  22. Boulding, K.E. 1962. Notes on a theory of philanthropy. In Philanthropy and public policy, ed. F.G. Dickinson. New York: NBER.Google Scholar
  23. Boulding, K.E. 1969. Economics as a moral science. American Economic Review 59: 1–12.Google Scholar
  24. Boulding, K.E. 1978. Sociobiology or biosociology? In Sociobiology and human nature: An interdisciplinary critique and defense, ed. M.S. Gregory, A. Silvers, and D. Sutch. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  25. Bruce, N., and M. Waldman. 1990. The rotten-kid theorem meets the Samaritan’s dilemma. Quarterly Journal of Economics 105: 155–165.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Buchanan, J.M. 1965. Ethical rules, expected values, and large numbers. Ethics 76: 1–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Buchanan, J.M. 1975. The Samaritan’s dilemma. In Altruism, morality and economic theory, ed. E.S. Phelps. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  28. Buchanan, J.M. 1978. Markets, states, and the extent of morals. American Economic Review 78: 364–368.Google Scholar
  29. Collard, D. 1978. Altruism and economy: A study in non-selfish economics. Oxford: Martin Robertson.Google Scholar
  30. Collard, D. 1992. Love is not enough. In Thoughtful economic man: Essays on rationality, moral rules and benevolence, ed. G. Meeks. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  31. Cowen, T. 1993. Altruism and the argument from offsetting transfers. In Altruism, ed. E. Frankel Paul, F.D. Miller Jr., and J. Paul. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  32. Dasgupta, P. 1993. Altruism and the allocation of resources. Social Service Review 67: 374–387.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Dawkins, R. 1976. The selfish gene, 2nd ed, 1989. Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  34. Edgeworth, F.Y. 1881. Mathematical psychics: An essay on the application of mathematics to the moral sciences. New York: Augustus M. Kelley. 1967.Google Scholar
  35. Ferber, M.A., and J.A. Nelson. 1993. Beyond economic man: Feminist theory and economics. Chicago/London: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Fontaine, P. 2000. Making use of the past: Theorists and historians on the economics of altruism. European Journal of the History of Economic Thought 7: 407–422.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Friedman, M. 1953. The methodology of positive economics. In Essays in positive economics. Chicago/London: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  38. Frumkin, P. 1999. Private foundations as public institutions: Regulation, professionalization, and the redefinition of organized philanthropy. In Philanthropic foundations: New scholarship, new possibilities, ed. E. Condliffe Lagemann. Bloomington/Indianapolis: University of Indiana Press.Google Scholar
  39. Gérard-Varet, L.-A., S.-C. Kolm, and J. Mercier-Ythier. 2000. The economics of reciprocity, giving and altruism. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Hall, P.D. 1999. Resolving the dilemmas of democratic governance: The historical development of trusteeship in America, 1636–1996. In Philanthropic foundations: New scholarship, new possibilities, ed. E. Condliffe Lagemann. Bloomington/Indianapolis: University of Indiana Press.Google Scholar
  41. Hirshleifer, J. 1967. Disaster behavior: Altruism or alliance? In Economic behaviour in adversity. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 1987.Google Scholar
  42. Hirshleifer, J. 1977a. Economics from a biological viewpoint. Journal of Law and Economics 20: 1–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Hirshleifer, J. 1977b. Shakespeare vs. Becker on altruism: The importance of having the last word. Journal of Economic Literature 15: 500–502.Google Scholar
  44. Hirshleifer, J. 1982. Evolutionary models in economics and law: Cooperation versus conflict strategies. Research in Law and Economics 4: 1–60.Google Scholar
  45. Hirshleifer, J. 1985. The expanding domain of economics. American Economic Review 75: 53–68.Google Scholar
  46. Hirshleifer to Becker. 13 December 1976. Correspondence, Journal of Economic Literature Series, box 31, Mark Perlman Papers, Duke University, Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library.Google Scholar
  47. Hochman, H.M., and J.D. Rodgers. 1969. Pareto optimal redistribution. American Economic Review 59: 542–557.Google Scholar
  48. Kimball, M.S. 1987. Making sense of two-sided altruism. Journal of Monetary Economics 20: 301–326.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Kolm, S.-C. 1969. The optimal production of social justice. In Public economics: An analysis of public production and consumption and their relations to the private sectors, ed. J. Margolis and H. Guitton. London/New York: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  50. Kolm, S.-C. 1981a. Efficacité et altruismes: les sophismes de Mandeville, Smith et Pareto. Revue économique 32: 5–31. Repr. in Kolm (1983).Google Scholar
  51. Kolm, S.-C. 1981b. Altruismes et efficacités: le sophisme de Rousseau. Information sur les sciences sociales 20: 293–344. Repr. in Kolm (1983).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Kolm, S.-C. 1983. Altruism and efficiency. Ethics 94: 18–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Kolm, S.-C. 1984. La Bonne Économie: La Réciprocité générale. Paris: PUF.Google Scholar
  54. Kolm, S.-C., and J. Mercier-Ythier. 2006. Handbook of the economics of giving, altruism and reciprocity, vol. 2 vols. Amsterdam: North-Holland.Google Scholar
  55. Laffont, J.-J. 1975. Macroeconomic constraints, economic efficiency and ethics: an introduction to Kantian economics. Economica 42: 430–437.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Lindbeck, A., and J.W. Weibull. 1988. Altruism and time consistency: The economics of fait accompli. Journal of Political Economy 96: 1165–1182.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Mansbridge, J.J. 1990. Beyond self-interest. Chicago/London: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  58. Margolis, H. 1982. Selfishness, altruism, and rationality: A theory of social choice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  59. Monroe, K.R. 1996. The heart of altruism: Perceptions of a common humanity. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  60. Nelson, R.R., and S.G. Winter. 1982. An evolutionary theory of economic change. Cambridge, MA: Belknap.Google Scholar
  61. Olson, M. 1971. The logic of collective action: Public goods and the theory of groups, 2nd ed. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Appendix.Google Scholar
  62. Olson, M. 1982. The rise and decline of nations: Economic growth, stagflation, and social rigidities. New Haven/London: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  63. Phelps, E.S. 1975. Altruism, morality, and economic theory. New York: Russell Sage.Google Scholar
  64. Phelps to Brim. 19 October 1971. Russell Sage Foundation Archives: Rockefeller Archive Center, Studies in Philanthropy, Folder 493, Box 57. New York, North Tarrytown.Google Scholar
  65. Robertson, D.H. 1955. What does the economist economize? In Economic Commentaries. London: Staple Press. 1956.Google Scholar
  66. Samuelson, P.A. 1985. Modes of thought in economics and biology. American Economic Review: Papers and Proceedings 75: 166–172.Google Scholar
  67. Samuelson, P.A. 1993. Altruism as a problem involving group versus individual selection in economics and biology. American Economic Review: Papers and Proceedings 83: 143–148.Google Scholar
  68. Schelling, T. 1978. Altruism, meanness, and other potentially strategic behaviors. American Economic Review: Papers and Proceedings 68: 229–230.Google Scholar
  69. Sen, A. 1973. Behaviour and the concept of preference. Economica 40: 241–259.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Sen, A. 1977. Rational fools: A critique of the behavioral foundations of economic theory. Philosophy & Public Affairs 6: 317–344.Google Scholar
  71. Sen, A. 1985. Goals, commitment, and identity. Journal of Law Economics & Organization 1: 341–355.Google Scholar
  72. Simon, H.A. 1990. A mechanism for social selection and successful altruism. Science 250: 1665–1668.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Simon, H.A. 1992. Altruism and economics. Eastern Economic Journal 18: 73–83.Google Scholar
  74. Simon, H.A. 1993. Altruism and economics. American Economic Review 83: 156–161.Google Scholar
  75. Stark, O. 1995. Altruism and beyond: An economic analysis of transfers and exchanges within families and groups. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Steedman, I. 1989. Rationality, economic man and altruism. In Zamagni (1995).Google Scholar
  77. Stigler, G.J. 1984. Economics – The imperial science? Scandinavian Journal of Economics 86: 301–313.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Sugden, R. 1982. On the economics of philanthropy. Economic Journal 92: 341–350.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Sugden, R. 1984. Reciprocity: The supply of public goods through voluntary contributions. Economic Journal 94: 772–787.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Sugden, R. 1993. Thinking as a team: Towards an explanation of nonselfish behavior. In Altruism, ed. E. Frankel Paul, F.D. Miller Jr., and J. Paul. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  81. Thurow, L.C. 1971. The income distribution as a pure public good. Quarterly Journal of Economics 85: 327–336.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Tullock, G. 1977. Economics and sociobiology: A comment. Journal of Economic Literature 15: 502–506.Google Scholar
  83. Tullock, G. 1978. Altruism, malice and public goods. Journal of Social and Biological Structures 1: 3–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Tullock, G. 1979. Sociobiology and economics. Atlantic Economic Journal 7: 1–10.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Tullock, G. 1990. The economics of (very) primitive societies. Journal of Social and Biological Structures 13: 151–162.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. Vickrey, W.S. 1962. One economist’s view of philanthropy. In Philanthropy and public policy, ed. F.G. Dickinson. New York: NBER.Google Scholar
  87. Wilson, E.O. 1975. Sociobiology, Abridged edn. Cambridge, MA: Belknap, 1980.Google Scholar
  88. Wintrobe, R. 1983. Taxing altruism. Economic Inquiry 21: 255–270.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  89. Zamagni, S. 1995. The economics of altruism. Aldershot/Brookfield: Edward Elgar.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Philippe Fontaine
    • 1
  1. 1.