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Is Individual Behavior Oriented to Self-interest, Other-interest or both? Empirical Evidence from a Case Study of Social Capital


  • Zhang, Zhenyu
  • Lynne, Gary D.


While social capital is becoming mainstreamed in social science, much remains to be done to better understand its' nature. This is especially true for "What motivates the investment in social capital, and what affects the level of social capital?" An earlier paper by Robison, Schmid and Siles ( 2002) suggests that social capital is motivated by sympathy, and thus in some sense it is sympathy. The empirical testing herein suggests that the formation of social capital may well be motivated in part by an empathetic, sympathetic tendency toward pursuing a shared other-interest. Data used in the test is from a mid-western U.S.A. rural community we refer to herein as "Nirvana" as it was identified in Cordes et al. (2003). The evidence shows Nirvana residents value social capital as a means of reaching self-interested ends as conditioned by shared other-interest. There appears to be a kind of symbiosis at work between the two interests, self-interest and other-interest, which likely explains the development success of this community. The question on what degree of orientation from strict attention to self-interest leads to greater viability in communities like Nirvana remains unresolved, and to answer the question explicitly requires further research on comparison of communities at different levels of economic viability and social capital.

Suggested Citation

  • Zhang, Zhenyu & Lynne, Gary D., 2006. "Is Individual Behavior Oriented to Self-interest, Other-interest or both? Empirical Evidence from a Case Study of Social Capital," 2006 Annual meeting, July 23-26, Long Beach, CA 21198, American Agricultural Economics Association (New Name 2008: Agricultural and Applied Economics Association).
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:aaea06:21198

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Samuel Bowles & Herbert Gintis, 2002. "Social Capital and Community Governance," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(483), pages 419-436, November.
    2. Lindon Robison & A. Allan Schmid & Marcelo Siles, 2002. "Is Social Capital Really Capital?," Review of Social Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 60(1), pages 1-21.
    3. Heckman, James, 2013. "Sample selection bias as a specification error," Applied Econometrics, Publishing House "SINERGIA PRESS", vol. 31(3), pages 129-137.
    4. Lindon J. Robison & Jan L. Flora, 2003. "The Social Capital Paradigm: Bridging across Disciplines," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 85(5), pages 1187-1193.
    5. Gary D. Lynne, 2002. "Agricultural Industrialization: A Metaeconomics Look at the Metaphors by which we Live," Review of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 24(2), pages 410-427.
    6. Lynne, Gary D., 1999. "Divided self models of the socioeconomic person: the metaeconomics approach," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 28(3), pages 267-288.
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