Values, Markets and the State
Edited by Geoffrey Brennan and Giuseppe Eusepi
Chapter 11: Cooperation, Reciprocity and Self-esteem: A Theoretical Approach
11. Cooperation, reciprocity and selfesteem: a theoretical approach Marcello Basili and Maurizio Franzini Introduction Cooperation among genetically unrelated agents is widely observed in behavioral experiments and in everyday life, even when repeated interaction is absent. In most cases economic theory does not contemplate it. Basically, cooperation among strangers is ruled out by the usual assumptions of self-interested behavior. Only repeated interaction may reconcile traditional self-interest with cooperation. We lack an explanation of how cooperation can develop among strangers, in a setting potentially open to free-riding and opportunism. Recently, several experiments have expanded our knowledge of important features of cooperative behavior under different circumstances. On the basis of that knowledge, an interesting hypothesis has been proposed: most agents are strong reciprocators, that is, they are ready to punish those who behave opportunistically, even when this is costly to them (Bowles and Gintis, 2004; Gintis et al., 2003; Gintis, 2004). Compared to other possible explanations of cooperation, strong reciprocity seems to enjoy the positive feature, at least from an economist’s point of view, of demanding a rather weak relaxation of the assumption that agents are self-interested. The analytical foundations of strong reciprocity are, however, still unclear. In particular, it has not been demonstrated whether such behavior can be derived from a rational process of maximization. The main goal of this chapter is to offer a possible explanation of strong reciprocity or, more generally, cooperative behavior as the end result of rational decision-making based on utility maximization. In our interpretation, a rational foundation...
You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.
Elgaronline requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals. Please login through your library system or with your personal username and password on the homepage.
Non-subscribers can freely search the site, view abstracts/ extracts and download selected front matter and introductory chapters for personal use.
Your library may not have purchased all subject areas. If you are authenticated and think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.