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Handbook on the Economics of Reciprocity and Social Enterprise

Handbook on the Economics of Reciprocity and Social Enterprise

Elgar original reference

Edited by Luigino Bruni and Stefano Zamagni

The recent era of economic turbulence has generated a growing enthusiasm for an increase in new and original economic insights based around the concepts of reciprocity and social enterprise. This stimulating and thought-provoking Handbook not only encourages and supports this growth, but also emphasises and expands upon new topics and issues within the economics discourse.

Chapter 5: Capitalism

Nicolò Bellanca

Subjects: economics and finance, behavioural and experimental economics, economic psychology, public sector economics, politics and public policy, social entrepreneurship, social policy and sociology, economics of social policy


The modern economic system is commonly classified as a ‘market economy’. This means that the allocation of resources is the outcome of individual decisions taken by producers and consumers. Producers and consumers answer to public signals such as prices which work automatically as they are the outcome of aggregated individual buying and selling decisions. Hence, on the market, anyone plans or rules; the coordinating mechanism is decentralized and voluntary. Prices give incentives which bring individuals to choose behaviours which are advantageous for them and, with some other condition, efficient. ‘The assumption is that society, in spite of frictions, dis-equilibria and evident inequalities can be interpreted as an equalitarian system in which each subject is rewarded according to its merits’ (Graziani 1981, 9). Those which disappear are the asymmetries of power: ‘an economic transition is a solved political problem. Economic science gained the title of queen of social sciences by choosing as an object political problems which were already solved’ (Lerner 1972, 259). Marx opposed himself to this conception by distinguishing the organizational forms of the economic system through the criteria of the property of the means of production.

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