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Rise and Decline of Social Capital

In order to explain excess co-operation in the one-shot prisoner's dilemma game, we first question the standard assumption of stable and selfish preferences by introducing the concept of social capital. This analysis leads to a model that explains excess co-operation through an accumulation of social capital. We allow preferences and norms to change over time and hence endogenise them. Our results depend on individuals being able to acquire enough information to allow them to ascertain the social norm that fellow individuals subscribe to. However, our results do not depend on any assumptions about group size and no ostracism is required to generate co-operation. Our model produces three hypotheses about the emergence and stability of social capital and co-operation in society. First, neither unconditional cooperation nor universal defection is stable; second, for co-operation to be stable some individuals must be reciprocal in nature; third, we identify a 'rise and decline of social capital' which gives a cyclical pattern of co-operation in society. These findings may form the basis for future theoretical and empirical research.

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Paper provided by University of Aarhus, Aarhus School of Business, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 03-10.

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Length: 23 pages
Date of creation: 07 Jan 2003
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:hhs:aareco:2003_010
Contact details of provider: Postal: The Aarhus School of Business, Prismet, Silkeborgvej 2, DK 8000 Aarhus C, Denmark
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Fax: +45 8615 5175
Web page: http://www.asb.dk/departments/nat.aspx

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  1. Stigler, George J & Becker, Gary S, 1977. "De Gustibus Non Est Disputandum," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 67(2), pages 76-90, March.
  2. Zak, Paul J & Knack, Stephen, 2001. "Trust and Growth," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 111(470), pages 295-321, April.
  3. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521814089 is not listed on IDEAS
  4. Witt, Ulrich, 1986. "Evolution and Stability of Cooperation without Enforceable Contracts," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 39(2), pages 245-66.
  5. Berg Joyce & Dickhaut John & McCabe Kevin, 1995. "Trust, Reciprocity, and Social History," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 10(1), pages 122-142, July.
  6. Joel Sobel, 2002. "Can We Trust Social Capital?," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 40(1), pages 139-154, March.
  7. Paldam, Martin & Svendsen, Gert Tinggaard, 2000. "An essay on social capital: looking for the fire behind the smoke," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 16(2), pages 339-366, June.
  8. Ernst Fehr & Simon G�chter, 2000. "Fairness and Retaliation: The Economics of Reciprocity," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 14(3), pages 159-181, Summer.
  9. Kahneman, Daniel & Knetsch, Jack L & Thaler, Richard H, 1986. "Fairness and the Assumptions of Economics," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 59(4), pages S285-300, October.
  10. Schram, Arthur, 2000. " Sorting Out the Seeking: The Economics of Individual Motivations," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 103(3-4), pages 231-58, June.
  11. Paldam, Martin & Svendsen, Gert Tinggaard, 2000. "Missing social capital and the transition in Eastern Europe," Working Papers 00-5, University of Aarhus, Aarhus School of Business, Department of Economics.
  12. Kandori, Michihiro, 1992. "Social Norms and Community Enforcement," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 59(1), pages 63-80, January.
  13. Georg Kirchsteiger & Ernst Fehr & Arno Riedl, 1993. "Does Fairness Prevent Market Clearing? An Experimental Investigation," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/5927, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  14. Jorgen W. Weibull, 1997. "Evolutionary Game Theory," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262731215, June.
  15. Fehr, Ernst & Gachter, Simon, 1998. "Reciprocity and economics: The economic implications of Homo Reciprocans1," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 42(3-5), pages 845-859, May.
  16. Paldam, Martin, 2000. " Social Capital: One or Many? Definition and Measurement," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 14(5), pages 629-53, December.
  17. Ahn, T K, et al, 2001. " Cooperation in PD Games: Fear, Greed, and History of Play," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 106(1-2), pages 137-55, January.
  18. Ernst Fehr & Urs Fischbacher, 2002. "Why Social Preferences Matter -- The Impact of Non-Selfish Motives on Competition, Cooperation and Incentives," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(478), pages C1-C33, March.
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