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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 41: Values based organizations

Alessandra Smerilli

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 underlying motivations of actions have an important value in civil and economic life, and in those of organizations as well. Human beings are the only animals capable of attributing a meaning and a value to their own and others’ motivations, and not only to the material results and objectives derived from a certain behavior. For as long as, and to the extent in which, organizations and markets remain human places, motivations will matter, including the most complex motivation of the simple search for profit (Bruni and Zamagni 2009). Nevertheless, economics does not consider, or at least did not consider until recent times, the motivations underlying actions. Rather, and for uncommon reasons, economics considers it dangerous to include them in economic analyses. This is because the principal characteristic of modern economy, that which is most rooted and profound, is the definition of the market as a place where we can meet and exchange, without having to consider ‘why’ each party is undertaking a given action or trade. Analyzing the ‘why’, in fact, calls into play the identity, history, caste, class, religion – all the elements which during the ancient regime (and to a certain extent even at present, in some parts of the world) were a cause of limitations to economic and social development.

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