IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this book chapter

Introduction to the Economics of Giving, Altruism and Reciprocity

Listed author(s):
  • Kolm, Serge-Christophe
Registered author(s):

    Altruism, giving and pro-social conduct, and reciprocity, are the basis of the existence and performance of societies, through their various occurrences: in families; among the diverse motives of the political and public sector; as the general respect and moral conduct which permit life in society and exchanges; for remedying "failures" of markets and organizations (which they sometimes also create); and in charity and specific organizations. Altruism has various origins: it can be hedonistic or natural altruism in empathy, affection, sympathy, emotional contagion, pity, and compassion; or normative altruism of the moral, non-moral social, and rational types. Giving can be altruistic, aimed at producing some social effect in the fields of social sentiments, situations or relations, an intrinsic norm, or self-interested. Reciprocity, in which a gift elicits another gift, is a pervasive social relation due to either a desire of balance (and possibly fairness), or to liking a benevolent giver (moreover, self-interested sequential exchanges look like it). Joint giving for alleviating poverty and need makes giving a contribution to a pure public good for which efficient public transfers crowd out private gifts. Yet, private giving can be an intrinsic norm or a demand of reason, or it can be motivated by the non-moral concern about judgments of others or of oneself. Families - the institutions for love and giving - are networks of reciprocities. Intertemporal giving includes gifts to future generation through bequests, and to earlier generations through the relevant public indebtedness ("retro-gifts"). Normative opinions about societies, and in particular about justice, imply and require altruism and constitute a form of it. Moreover, altruism is the mark of good social relations and good persons. Altruism and giving have always been analysed by economics, notably by all great economists, with an upsurge of studies in the last third of the 20th century.

    If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.

    in new window

    This chapter was published in:
  • S. Kolm & Jean Mercier Ythier (ed.), 2006. "Handbook of the Economics of Giving, Altruism and Reciprocity," Handbook on the Economics of Giving, Reciprocity and Altruism, Elsevier, edition 1, volume 1, number 1.
  • This item is provided by Elsevier in its series Handbook on the Economics of Giving, Reciprocity and Altruism with number 1-01.
    Handle: RePEc:eee:givchp:1-01
    Contact details of provider: Web page:

    No references listed on IDEAS
    You can help add them by filling out this form.

    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

    When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:givchp:1-01. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Dana Niculescu)

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

    If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.