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Beyond Altruism, Duty or Collusion. Introducting Solidarity into Economics


  • Arnsperger, Christian

    (Université catholique de Louvain, Chaire Hoover; Belgian National Fund for Scientific Research (FNRS))

  • Varoufakis, Yannis

    (University of Sydney, Department of Economics)


Many acts of sacrifice cannot be accounted for as instances of sophisticated selfishness, altruism, Kantian duty, or collusion of the powerful. Economists find these acts puzzling and seek to accomodate them within standard instrumental models of increasing complexity. The paper argues in favor of an alternative avanue, which consists in introducing solidarity into economics as a new and specific analytical category of human motivation. Our analysis of solidaristic motivations proceeds with a series of "nested", increasingly specific definitions. Our most general characterization of solidarity encompasses numerous forms of other-regarding behavior (e.g. utilitarian altruism, evolved natural sympathy, or Kantian imperatives); we then move to a "deeper" notion of solidarity which insists on the absence of instrumental reasoning; finally, we submit a notion of "genuine" solidarity which, additionally, does away with any possibility of collusion between the beneficiaries of arbitrary social power. We thus show how the understanding of solidarity in economic models can be gradually refined so as to account for moves and motives which existing categories fail to envelop.

Suggested Citation

  • Arnsperger, Christian & Varoufakis, Yannis, 1999. "Beyond Altruism, Duty or Collusion. Introducting Solidarity into Economics," Discussion Papers (IRES - Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales) 1999030, Université catholique de Louvain, Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (IRES).
  • Handle: RePEc:ctl:louvir:1999030

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    More about this item


    solidarity; rationality; altruism; ethics and economics; evolutionary games;

    JEL classification:

    • C72 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Noncooperative Games
    • D4 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design
    • D71 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Social Choice; Clubs; Committees; Associations
    • D74 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Conflict; Conflict Resolution; Alliances; Revolutions
    • J71 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Discrimination - - - Hiring and Firing


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