Handbook on the Economics of Reciprocity and Social Enterprise
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Handbook on the Economics of Reciprocity and Social Enterprise

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.
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Chapter 30: Relational goods

Benedetto Gui


Imagine an economy where children have at their disposal agreeable gardens, where adults own comfortable houses, and jobs are well-paid. Does it make any difference if children play alone or with mates, adults have good or bad relationships with relatives and neighbours, and the social climate on the job is pleasant or detestable? No difference, according to conventional national accounting. Instead, not only introspection, but also empirical research indicates that people value such details considerably. How can this inconsistency be reconciled? One possible strategy is to recognize that GDP or aggregate consumption measure amounts of goods (respectively, produced and consumed), not citizen well-being. Another is to observe that those considered in national accounting, and more generally in economic analyses, are only a subset of the goods people draw benefit from; so new categories of goods must be taken into consideration, beside conventional ones. The concept of relational good fits into the latter scientific strategy. The expression first appeared in contemporary social sciences literature in the late 1980s in the writings of a few authors, apparently unconnected and belonging to different disciplines – Pierpaolo Donati, a sociologist, and Martha Nussbaum, a philosopher, in 1986; Benedetto Gui, an economist, in 1987; Carole Uhlaner, a political scientist, in 1989.

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