Social Relations Instead of Altruistic Punishment

Analyse & Kritik 27 (1):158-171 (2005)
Ernst Fehr's experimental research on altruistic behaviour aims at superseding the classical homo oeconomicus in micro-economic behaviour theory. This essay discusses Fehr's results from two points of view: rst, in regard to the understanding of social action associated with the term "altruism"; second, in regard to the 'anthropological' strategy of research that is based on the laboratory method. Against the emphasis on altruism it will be argued that it misleads into providing a distorted description of social acting, and that, due to insu cient clarity about motives for acting, Fehr's empirical results give evidence not of altruism but rather of phenomena of social recognition. The objection against the anthropological strategy will be that it makes visible only local phenomena within prevailing social conditions and that it thus assumes more than it explains.
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