Actual Problems of
Economics and Law




DOI: 10.21202/1993-047X.11.2017.2.199-219

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Authors :
1. Edward L. Rubin, Professor of Law and Political Science
Vanderbilt University Law School, Nashville, TN, USA

The dominance of norm

Objective: to revisit the debate about rational choice theory from the legal, cultural and historical perspectives.

Methods: dialectic approach to the cognition of social phenomena, allowing to analyze them in their historical development and functioning in the context of the integrity of subjective and objective factors; this determines the choice of the research methods: systemic-structural, formal-legal, and comparative.

Results: The first part of this chapter will explain the way in which people in societies different from our own were subject to other motivations in situations where self-interest would tend to dominate in our society. The reasoning is based on three examples, one drawn from the history of Ancient Rome, one from the High Middle Ages of the European society, and one from a contemporary non-Western culture. The second part of the chapter analyzes the reason why material self-interest maximizing became a dominant motivation in the modern Western society. The works on historical sociology attribute this development to Calvinism, but this hypothesis suffers from some serious defects. In the article we prove that the modern sensibility resulted from much longer-acting trends, specifically secularization, urbanization and commercialization. The final section of the chapter explores the relationship between the West’s prevailing norm of self-interest maximization and the particular norms that have been discussed in microeconomic theory. It argues that some of these norms are internal to the prevailing one, and are thus explicable in terms of material self-interest, but that others reflect additional norms in the general society that exist alongside, and sometimes in competition with, the prevailing norm of self-interest maximization. The historically-based view that self-interest maximizing is a prevailing norm, rather than a human universal, allows these other norms to be acknowledged in a plausible and realistic manner, rather than being explained away by a Procrustean, and ultimately unconvincing effort to fit them into a unitary model of human motivation.
Scientific novelty: the article proves that material self-interest maximizing is a prevailing norm in our society, determining a good deal of observed behavior. However, because it is a norm, and not a human universal, it can be readily altered or alloyed by other norms when circumstances render those considerations operative. Thus, behavior that cannot be explained as rational choice should not be regarded as enigmatic lapses into irrationality. Rather, it represents the natural interplay of varying attitudes that any complex society displays, the range of behavior resources that individuals within such a society will naturally draw upon in daily life. Each particular motive may require explanation, but the fact that they are mixed together does not.

Practical significance: the main provisions and conclusions of the article can be used in scientific and pedagogical activity when considering the issues of the legal behavior of the humans.

Keywords :

Law; Economics; Rational choice; Microeconomics theory; Prevailing norm; Public norm

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Original publication: https://www.routledge.com/Law-and-Economics-Philosophical-Issues-and-Fundamental-Questions/Hatzis-Mercuro/p/book/9781138081628

Citation :

Rubin E. L. The dominance of norm, Actual Problems of Economics and Law, 2017, vol. 11, No. 2, pp. 199–219. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.21202/1993-047X.11.2017.2.199-219

Type of article : The scientific article

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