Show Summary Details

Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE (www.oxfordhandbooks.com). © Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 19 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter presents some insights from basic behavioral research on the role of human prosocial motivation to maintain social order. I argue that social order can be conceptualized as a public goods game. Past attempts to explain social order typically relied on the assumption of selfish and rational agents (“homo economicus”). The last twenty years of research in behavioral and experimental economics have challenged this view. After presenting the most important findings of recent research on human prosociality I discuss the evidence on three pillars of the maintenance of social order. The first pillar is internalized norms of cooperation, sustained by emotions such as guilt and shame. The second pillar is the behavior of other people who typically are “conditional cooperators” willing to cooperate if others do so as well. This motivation can sustain cooperation if enough people cooperate but can jeopardize social order if many others follow selfish inclinations. The third pillar is sanctions meted out to anyone who does not cooperate; ideally punishment can work as a mere threat without being executed much. The chapter also presents some evidence on the cross-cultural variability of some findings, in particular with regard to punishment behavior. The chapter concludes with remarks on future research.

Keywords: social order, social dilemma, prosociality, strong reciprocity, moral emotions, social norms, conditional cooperation, punishment, Rule of Law

Access to the complete content on Oxford Handbooks Online requires a subscription or purchase. Public users are able to search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter without a subscription.

Please subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you have purchased a print title that contains an access token, please see the token for information about how to register your code.

For questions on access or troubleshooting, please check our FAQs, and if you can''t find the answer there, please contact us.