Economic Analysis: Theory and Practice

Theories of social norms onset in economics, sociology and law: A comparison

Vol. 17, Iss. 1, JANUARY 2018

Received: 28 September 2017

Received in revised form: 27 October 2017

Accepted: 15 November 2017

Available online: 29 January 2018


JEL Classification: C70, E02, E03

Pages: 82–98

Istratov V.A. Central Economics and Mathematics Institute, Russian Academy Sciences, Moscow, Russian Federation

ORCID id: not available

Importance The article compares theories of social norms onset in economics, sociology and law, i.e. social sciences that address the issues of norms most closely.
Objectives I identify common features and patterns of norm development.
Methods The comparison draws on two aspects: first, I compare interpretations of the norm concept, of which the theories of norms onset came out; secondly, I compare the theories of norms onset and, in some cases, subsequent norm development.
Results The analysis of relevant literature shows that the interpenetration of theories in these areas of knowledge is large, and it is possible to highlight common key elements and associate them with each other. A norm is generally understood in most theories as a set of restrictions on conduct supported by certain coercive measures. As for developing a social norm, it may take several paths, but the most popular explanatory factor is the enhancement of individual or societal effectiveness in carrying out actions regulated by the norm.
Conclusions Theories about the genesis of norms are rather scattered and fragmentary, in some cases they are even contradictory. On the one hand, this is due to differences in research priorities of the sciences themselves and, on the other hand, there is a lack of consensus on concepts and processes that define them. It is, therefore, important to develop a theory of social norms formation. The findings may be useful for modeling the socio-economic relationships, in particular, in different paradigms of simulation.

Keywords: institution, social norm, game-theoretic equilibrium, behavior


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