6.3 Considerations about the emergence and erosion of moral norms

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It has been argued that moral norms have a decisive role to play in establishing and sustaining cooperation in large groups. These norms fulfil the function of imposing "'impartial" constraints on the pursuit of individual interests, constraints which are socially desirable in serving interests that individuals share as members of a social community' (Vanberg, 1988: 3). Now, to have a theory of norms, we should know how they arise, how they are maintained, how they change over time (how they vanish and how they are displaced by other norms), and whether and how they can be manipulated, all questions which are essentially unanswered to this date. Clearly, these are questions of considerable complexity and around which there are likely to be enduring debate and heated controversies for a long time to come. Depending on the type of answer provided, different approaches will be suggested to central problems such as the one raised in this chapter.

Emergence of moral norms

Insights from eighteenth-century philosophy
The enormous stake involved in the choice of approach to the dynamics of norms can be illustrated by considering the issue of norm emergence. Two radically opposite views are possible. The first of these views is profoundly optimistic and is grounded in the wellknown evolutionary approach to institutional change. In a pioneer attempt made over two centuries ago, David Hume proposed a remarkably articulate formulation of the evolutionary theory when he tried to explain the process of emergence of social order in a market economy.

Hume actually believed that public good cannot be established unless individuals are driven not only by selfish passions but also by a 'moral sense' (a view inherited from Hutcheson). Yet moral behaviour depends upon rational considerations and, in an age of cultural and scientific progress, individuals cannot fail to see the necessity for private property, law, and government. Far from contributing to corruption and degeneracy, the development of 'commercial society' can be expected to pave the way for morality, justice, and good government in so far as it goes hand in hand with moral and political progress (McNally, 1988: 167-8). At this point, Hume's ideas as contained in his Treatise of Human Nature (1740) deserve to be detailed more fully. This is done below by quoting at some length the paraphrasing description recently proposed by McNally:

In the Treatise Hume accepts that self-love is the origin of law and government. Nevertheless, since 'the self-love of one person is naturally contrary to that of another', competing and conflicting self-interested passions must 'adjust themselves after such a manner as to concur in some system of conduct and behaviour'. After individuals discover that unbridled selfishness incapacitates them for society, 'they are naturally induc'd to lay themselves under the restraint of such rules, as may render their commerce more safe and commodious'. As rules of social regulation are developed, they become customary and are passed on to future generations. Eventually people come to cherish the rules which hold society together. They develop a sense of sympathy for those who observe social norms. Moreover, they come to model their behaviour in such a way as to be worthy of the sympathy and approval of others. Through custom and education, then, individuals develop a love of praise and a fear of blame. For Hume, moral principles are not innate or providentially inspired. They are practical rules developed in the course of living in society; morality refers to the norms and conventions which prevail there. These norms and conventions can be said to enter into the commonsense view of the world most individuals acquire . . . [Sympathy] is a capacity derived from experience and modified as the customary rules of social life change. Sympathy has a rational dimension; it derives from the individual's understanding of the necessity for norms of conduct and behaviour. Thus, although 'self-interest is the original motive to the establishment of justice', as society develops it becomes the case that 'a sympathy with public interest is the source of the moral approbation, which attends that virtue' (McNally, 1988: 168-9)

For Hume, property, law, and government are therefore the outcome of the evolution of human society. Through the experience derived from their mutual interac tions in the (nascent) market economy, individuals come to see the necessity of, and to accept the constraints imposed by, those institutions and conventions which preserve the social order. Men 'cannot change their natures. All they can do is to change their situation' and 'lay themselves under the necessity of observing the laws of justice and equity, notwithstanding their violent propensity to prefer contiguous [short-term] to remote [gains]' (Hume, 1740: Bk. III, pt. II, sect. VII, 537). 'Public utility' becomes the basis of moral decision and, as Hume put it in his Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals, 'everything which contributes to the happiness of society recommends itself directly to our approbation and good will' (quoted from McNally, 1988: 169). That moral norms serve not only to shape individual preferences but also to structure individual expectations did not escape Hume's attention. As attested by the following excerpt, norms can serve as an assurance device: 'this experience assures us still more, that the sense of interest has become common to all our fellows, and gives us a confidence of the future regularity of their conduct: And 'tis only on the expectation of this, that our moderation and abstinence are founded' (Hume, 1740: Bk. III, pt. II, sect. II, 490). It may be further noted that Hume's analysis allows for internalized norms in so far as he holds that social rules are passed on to successive generations through education and customs.

Applied to the problem of CPR management, the position of Hume can be stated thus: through experience, individuals progressively realize that, in order to avoid being trapped in PDstructured situations, they have a long-term interest not only in laying down rules and building up rule-enforcing agencies but also in spontaneously submitting themselves to the rules or norms thereby established (with the result that enforcement costs will be reduced to a minimum). This may hold true at any level. At the level of the State, for example, individuals will spontaneously help to create and then support the laws and enforcing machinery required to ensure a sustainable development of the CPR which cannot be effectively managed without at least some degree of state intervention. Supporting behaviour is supposed naturally to arise from the people's abiding respect for all legal rules which they have contributed to establish.

The same willingness to lay down, and to comply with, socially desirable rules manifests itself in the context of large—or small—group settings whose members are concerned with the management of a given CPR. As all or most people gradually come to have a full understanding of their long-term interest and of the need to co-operate towards promoting these interests, they are again ready to participate in the necessary collective actions and to constrain their own behaviours so as to make this co-operation a sustainable venture over time. It is noteworthy that Hume appears to have explicitly assumed that people have a preference structure resembling that of an AG, which explains why co-operation may be possible even in a large-group setting.

In a radically opposed and much less optimistic view than the one expressed by Hume, moral norms appear not as something which may gradually and unconsciously evolve when the need arises, but as a precondition that must be established before any action requiring trust can take place. Thus, for example, Edmund Burke held the opinion that 'the expansion of commerce depended itself on the prior existence of "manners" and "civilisation" and on what he called "natural protecting principles" grounded in the ' "spirit of a gentleman" and "the spirit of religion"' (Hirschman, 1987: 160, referring to Burke, 1790: 115).

Adam Smith had a more ambivalent attitude even though, on the whole, he inclined to think in the way of his friend David Hume. That is, he essentially shared the doctrine which can be traced back to Montesquieu and which Hirschman has dubbed 'the Doux-commerce thesis' (Hirschman, 1977; 1982). According to Smith, for instance, the spread of commerce and industry enhances virtues such as industriousness, assiduity, frugality, punctuality, and probity (Rosenberg, 1964; Hirschman, 1982: 1465; Young, 1992: 80). As is well known, in his Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759), Smith laid much stress on the fact that all individuals have a capacity for sympathy with others, that is, they are all able, by an act of imagination, to adopt the others' viewpoint and to understand their reactions (see, in particular, pt. III, ch. I; see also Hume, 1740: Bk. II, pt. II, sect. VII and pt. III, sect. VI). This capacity of sympathetic identification which enables actors to adopt the standpoint of an impartial spectator who observes situations of human interactions dispassionately is the fundamental basis of society: it supplies a system of cultural restraints in which moral checks upon the passion of self-love can be embedded (McNally, 1988: 182; Brown, 1988: 612, 67; Young, 1992: 73-7). Note that Smith actually believed that the capacity to sympathize was especially noticeable among those occupying 'the inferior and middling stations of life'. This is because, being obliged to be prudent, they had to learn that the pursuit of self-interest must be held within socially acceptable bounds (McNally, 1988: 186).

See from this angle, Smith shared the belief that a society where the market assumes a central position for the satisfaction of human wants will produce not only considerable new wealth because of the division of labour and consequent technical progress, but would generate as a by-product, or external economy, a more 'polished' human type—more honest, reliable, orderly, and disciplined, as well as more friendly and helpful, ever ready to find solutions to conflicts and a middle ground for opposed opinions. (Hirschman, 1982: 1465)

On the other hand, there is no doubt that Smith stressed the serious limitations of the selfregulating capacity of human societies. There is therefore a political task—the constitution and preservation of the moral basis of society—that should be undertaken by a select group of virtuous men capable of following the moral ideals of conscience and embodying the civic habits necessary to political stability (Hirschman, 1982: 192208). In contrast to Hume, Smith believed that there are natural standards of human conduct which are not simply the result of human convention (Young, 1992: 76). For him, therefore, social order must be 'fabricated' within the body politic so as to lay down the rules and set up the institutions susceptible of directing selfcentred econ omic appetites into socially desirable channels. Also worth noting is the fact that Smith stressed the role of the Church in producing and strengthening morality (Colclough, 1991).

Insights from game theory

There is a clear affiliation between most contemporary authors writing on the subject and either of the above two strands of eighteenth-century political thought. Thus, on the one hand, Hayek (1948, 1979) - for whom rules of good conduct emerge naturally and get reflected in evolving common law—neatly belongs to Hume's descent, like many other scholars more or less closely related to him, such as Nelson and Winter (1982), Gauthier (1986), Mueller (1986), Ellickson (1991), McKinnon (1992), and Murrell (1992). Perhaps closest to Hume is the philosopher Gauthier who asserts that an individual 'reasoning from nonmoral premises would accept the constraints of morality on his choices' (Gauthier, 1986: 5).9 On the other hand, the sociologist Talcott Parsons—for whom a society is 'prior to and regulates utilitarian contracts between individuals' (Mayhew, 1984: 1289) - and the economist Field (Field, 1981193; see also 1984) have their thinking anchored in the other realm where no spontaneous order exists. As we have shown above, game theory offers some insights into the question of the emergence of rules or norms of co-operation. A well-known group of them have adopted the (Hayekian) evolutionary perspective according to which rules and (moral) beliefs of a free society are the unintended outcome of a process of evolution occurring in the absence of any conscious human design. Thus, for Sugden, the conventions, or established patterns of behaviour, which create order in a market society are supported by moral beliefs (people believe that they ought to keep to these conventions). Yet 'there is no independent principle of justice that provides a rational basis for these beliefs' because 'the belief that one ought to follow a convention is the product of the same process of evolution as the convention itself' (Sugden, 1989: 87; see also Schotter, 1981, 1983, 1986). Trust would thus come out, as it were naturally, everyone having understood that all have an interest in behaving honestly and being thereby led to expect that they will actually behave so.

As has already been argued in Chapter 4, there are nevertheless serious limitations and difficulties with the kinds of proofs adduced in support of the hypothesis that evolutionary processes are at work to produce conventions, rules, and (moral) norms conducive to cooperative outcomes. As a matter of fact, the most intriguing result of game theory is that many different outcomes can be sustained as equilibria by rational actors. The question as to how a particular equilibrium becomes selected is therefore at the heart of the game theorists' research programme. The problem is really complex, and some outstanding authors actually believe that: 'What evolution produces will largely be a matter of historical accident' (Binmore, 1992: 434). The path-dependence approach also stresses the point that culture and history matter (see, e.g.,

Brian Arthur, 1988; David, 1988, 1992a, 1992b; North, 1990). The underlying idea is that 'the by which we arrive at today's institutions is relevant and constrains future choices' (North, 1990: 93; see also Matthews, 1986: 915; Basu et al., 1987: 13). Rather than being 'a story of inevitability in which the past neatly predicts the future', it is 'a way to narrow conceptually the choice set and link decision making through time' (North, 1990: 98-9). The source from which path dependence stems lies in increasing returns which comprise several self-reinforcing mechanisms: large initial set-up costs at the time of institutional innovation; learning effects; coordination effects (via contracts with other institutions or with the polity in complementary activities); and adaptive expectations which occur because increased prevalence of contracting based on a specific institution enhances beliefs of further prevalence (ibid. 94 5; see also Bardhan, 1989).

For Dasgupta, repeated games need some form of 'friction' to generate predictable outcomes, and a form of 'friction' is precisely provided by moral codes (there are certain things that are 'not done' although they are feasible) (Dasgupta, 1988: 70-1). These moral codes are left unexplained but could be interpreted as the product of a particular history or the ingredient of a particular culture. Gambetta draws attention to the same point when he insists that, in repeated PD games, the tit-for-tat strategy is inconceivable without at least some predisposition to trust: when the game has no history a cooperative first move is essential to set it on the right track, and unconditional distrust could never be conceived as conducive to this.... This problem may be circumvented by assuming the presence of uncertain beliefs and a random distribution which accommodates the probability of the right initial move being made and being 'correctly' interpreted. Yet there is no reason why the appropriate conditional beliefs should typically be the case, and the optimal move may be hard to come upon by accident (while we may not want to have to wait for it to come upon us) If it is true that humans are characterised by a lack of finetuning and a tendency to go to extremes, the assumption that trust will emerge naturally is singularly unjustified . . . tit-for-tat can be an equilibrium only if both players believe the other will abide by it, otherwise other equilibria are just as possible and self-confirming. To show that trust is really not at stake, Axelrod should have shown that whatever the initial move and the succession of further moves, the game tends to converge on tit-for-tat. What he does do is express a powerful set of reasons why, under certain conditions, . . . a basic predisposition to trust can be perceived and adopted as a rational pursuit even by moderately forward-looking egoists. (Gambetta, 1988b: 227-8, emphasis added)

At this stage, it is also useful to bear in mind the 'satisficing' model to strategy learning explored by Bendor et al. (1994) (see above, Chapter 4, sect. 2). Indeed, a noticeable feature of this model is its 'self-fulfilling' property: a human group with low initial aspirations due to, say, a disappointing experience in the past, will tend to reproduce the same outcome in the present and in the future. It must be remembered that the underlying behavioural assumptions involve a low degree of rationality in some well-defined sense.

Some game theorists believe that a rational basis can be given to explain the emergence of a particular norm understood as an established behavioural pattern. Most of their efforts, however, take place within the framework of repeated games of the co ordination or of the chicken kinds (Lewis, 1969; Ullmann-Margalit, 1977; Schotter, 1981, 1983, 1986; Sugden, 1989). These works are of interest because an AG can be considered as a co-ordination game largely defined. Indeed, co-ordination games are typically games in which there are several equilibria. Yet, while in pure coordination games (as defined by Lewis), players are more or less indifferent between these various equilibria, in co-ordination games sensu lato, such as the assurance game analysed in Chapter 5, the multiple equilibria are strictly Pareto-ranked. Now, a convention" can start to evolve as soon as some people believe that other people are following it, thereby providing a focal or salient point. The crucial question is of course what gives rise to this initial belief. One important possibility is that some forms of coordination are more prominent than others, and people have a prior expectation of finding the most prominent ones. But, as emphasized by Sugden, 'prominence is largely a matter of common experience' with the implication that 'conventions may spread by analogy from one context to another" and one should expect 'to find family relationships among conventions, and not just a chaos of arbitrary and unrelated rules' (Sugden, 1989: 93 4). In the words of North: 'Conventions are culture specific, as indeed are norms' (North, 1990: 42).

An interesting implication of Sugden's way of posing the co-ordination problem is the following: inasmuch as conventions arise in an evolutionary way through common experience, the culture of the people concerned matters a great deal and it is impossible to understand their rules without knowing their particular history. The focus is no more on universal truths or rationally deduced unique equilibrium institutions (as in classical game theory), but on rules that can work in a given cultural setting. In fact, as stressed by Myerson, 'from a game-theoretic perspective, cultural norms can be defined to be the rules that a society uses to determine focal equilibria in game situations' (Myerson, 1991 114). Clearly, conventions or norms do not emerge spontaneously from the free interactions of independent non-socialized individuals. For a game to be played, actors must be in total agreement not only about the rules of the game but also about a way to interpret them unambiguously. While the former condition refers to the existence of a social fabric prior to the unfolding of the game, the latter condition points to the existence of a common cultural patrimony. To put it in another way, what evolve are essentially operational rules of conduct which are embedded in a society's set of 'fundamental constitutive rules' (Field, 1984: 702) or 'foundational entitlements' (Ellickson, 1991: 284), not themselves subject to spontaneous evolution.

Another feature of Sugden's analysis that deserves to be emphasized is that, since an inefficient convention may be more prominent than an efficient one, rules that emerge are not necessarily Pareto-efficient (Ellickson, 1991: 94). The evolution of norms can not be explained by the aggregate social benefits they engender (Elster, 1989b; Bowles and Gintis, 1993).'4 Further, if a less than efficient solution prevails, the shift to a more efficient one cannot happen spontaneously because of the presumably great stability of a convention (any violator stands to lose from not abiding by it). Bianchi has thus pointed out that some active intervention from an external agency may be needed to effect a shift from a less to a more efficient rule or convention (Bianchi, 1990: 11; in the same vein, see also Steuer, 1989). Note that experimental results confirm that the first-best outcome (the pay-off-dominant equilibrium) of a co-ordination game is an extremely unlikely outcome either initially or in repeated play (Cooper et al., 1990; Van Huyck et al., 1990).

The meaning of the above implications for the problem of trust is rather straightforward. In particular, one vexed issue is the question as to how one can expect trust to arise in a society that has a long experience of distrust (that is, in what eighteenth-century thinkers call a 'corrupt' society). Assuming that many people aspire to cooperative conventions and just need to be reassured about others' preferences, an active intervention from an external agency (e.g. from the State) could apparently solve the problem as suggested by Bianchi. Things may not be so simple, however. Indeed, to succeed such a solution requires that people have enough trust in the external agency, and this will in turn depend on the historical experience of their relation with it and the way they have interpreted that experience.

A fascinating case illustrating the long-lasting influence of trust-destroying events is that of southern Italy which has been recently studied and contrasted with the altogether different historical trajectory of the northern part of the country (Banfield, 1958; Gambetta, 1988a; Putnam, 1993). In the Mezzogiorno, the language used by the people actually testifies to the deep-rooted tradition of distrust that is plainly traceable from early medieval times to today. Thus, to be a sucker is known as fesso, an Italian term which also means 'cuckolded' (Putnam, 1993: 111-12). Proverbs likewise point to the pervasive culture of diffidence not just towards the outsider but also within the community, even in small villages. In Calabria, for example, there is the saying that 'chi ara diritto, muore disperato' (he who behaves honestly comes to a miserable end). Other proverbs are: 'Damned is he who trusts another'; 'Don't make loans, don't give gifts, don't do good, for it will turn out bad for you'; 'Everyone thinks of his own good and cheats his companion'; 'When you see the house of your neighbour on fire, carry water to your own' (quoted from Putnam, 1993: 143-4). It is therefore not surprising that, as a result, southern Italy is permeated by 'defection, distrust, shirking, exploitation, isolation, disorder, and stagnation', all negative features that 'intensify one another in a suffocating miasma of vicious circles' (ibid. 177). The same 'culture of distrust' seems to permeate a society like the Philippines where, even within rural communities, people are bent upon cheating or free-riding upon one another for fear of being oneself the victim of others' opportunism. As a result, many social workers complain, collective action is very difficult to achieve at local level. Yet, when living abroad, Philippine workers are usually noticeable for their trustworthiness.

Erosion of moral norms

The problem of norm erosion is especially important: indeed, contrary to conventions that solve pure co-ordination problems, norms that overcome assurance problems are likely to be less stable since moral rules or preferences for co-operation may be subject to erosion. Recently, a number of scholars have drawn attention to the fact that the social capital constituted by a society of trustful and trustworthy individuals can be gradually 'eaten up' (Buchanan, 1975: 16; Hirsch, 1976; Bergsten, 1985; Mishan, 1986: chapter 8; Vanberg, 1988: 33; Bowles and Gintis, 1993). According to Hirsch, for example, social virtues such as 'truth, trust, acceptance, restraint, obligation' that are needed for the proper functioning of the market economy tend to be undermined by 'the individualistic and rationalistic base' of that system (Hirsch, 1976: 141-3). As for Bergsten, he believes, contrary to Durkheim (1893), that a high degree of division of labour contributes 'to reduce the shared experiences from which mutual understanding and tolerance stem' (Bergsten, 1985: 122). This may threaten the moral fabric of the market society by fragmenting the social space within which sympathetic interaction takes place.

Adopting the same starting-point as Bergsten (the determining role of labour division), it is actually possible to construct another hypothesis that leads to an identical conclusion even though it treads a somewhat different route. Thus, with increasing division of labour and specialization of knowledge in the Western world, the family is more and more confined to the role of a consumption unit (Becker, 1981) and the secondary socialization that takes place under the auspices of specialized agencies tends to supersede the family with regard to this second phase of socialization (Berger and Luckmann, 1967: 166). Moreover, in so far as parents find themselves increasingly less able to devote enough time and energy to teaching moral values to their children— since both parents often work full-time outside their home or many children spend some portion of their childhood in single-parent homes—the intensity of the parent-child relationship is reduced, thereby making primary socialization less effective (Frank, 1988: 250). In addition, grandparents tend to live in distant places (Coleman, 1988: S111) and, if this is not the ease, their interactions with their grandchildren are much less intense than they were before. Loss of primary socialization's effectiveness may also result (a) from reduced durability of family relationship (because members of the family are less indispensable to each other or are indispensable for a shorter period of time) and (b) from restricted family size (it is more difficult to teach other-regarding norms to single children than to children who continuously interact with brothers and sisters in what often turn out to be conflictual situations). Finally, to the extent that secondary socialization depends on the depth of primary socialization, it also tends to be affected (Berger and Luckmann, 1967: 160; Bergsten, 1985: 128). All these effects are likely to make the maintenance of moral norms more and more problematic. It is true that secondary socialization agencies (such as the school) might partly take over from the family the role of moral-norm supplier. Yet, unless high-powered ideological messages are diffused though their channels on a sustained basis, norm transmission will be considerably less effective than before. Indeed, as Etzioni has observed: 'Values that have lost their affective elements become empty shells, fragments of intellectual tracts or phrases to which people pay lip service but do not heed much in their choices' (Etzioni, 1988: 105).

There is another powerful reason to expect a gradual erosion of moral norms in market societies. The idea that capitalism's emphasis on self-interest tends gradually to erode the norms without which this system cannot function is part of an old doctrine (see Hirschman, 1982) to which twentieth-century economists have been sometimes attracted (Schumpeter, 1942; Mishan, 1986). This idea can be elaborated as follows. A central feature of recent evolution in capitalist societies may be seen as the rise of individualism, a phenomenon directly associated with the development of a materialist society based upon mass consumption. This development has been accompanied and promoted by active marketing policies that have largely succeeded in conveying the deceptive message that happiness or removal of pain can be achieved through individual consumption of things (goods and services). In the process, the problem of death and human suffering has been essentially obliterated by creating the illusion of man's immortality or eternal youth. This is an especially significant evolution for the following reason: when the inescapability of death and suffering is erased from people's conscience through their constant immersion in a ceaseless stream of consumption (market's ingenuity has actually succeeded in supplying powerful means of calming or suppressing pain and even grief), the need for a symbolic universe that legitimizes these painful experiments by explicit reference to an ever-living community of beings tends to disappear. In the words of Berger and Luckmann,

A strategic legitimating function of symbolic universes for individual biography is the 'location' of death.... Whether it is done with or without recourse to mythological, religious or metaphysical interpretations of reality is not the essential question here. The modern atheist, for instance, who bestows meaning upon death in terms of a Weltanschauung of progressive evolution or of revolutionary history also does so by integrating death with a reality-spanning symbolic universe. All legitimations of death must carry out the same essential task—they must enable the individual to go on living in society after the death of significant others and to anticipate his own death with, at the very least, terror sufficiently mitigated so as not to paralyse the continued performance of the routines of everyday life....The symbolic universe also orders history. It locates all collective events in a cohesive unity that includes past, present and future.... Thus the symbolic universe links men with their predecessors and their successors in a meaningful totality, serving to transcend the finitude of individual existence and bestowing meaning upon the individual's death. All the members of a society can now conceive of themselves as belonging to a meaningful universe, which was there before they were born and will be there after they die. (Berger and Luckmann, 1966: 118-21, emphasis added)

Thus, when people are exclusively concerned with enjoying their present life and preoccupied with suppressing any pain or grief that may befall them, they do not feel any more the need to belong to a totality that transcends them and imparts a meaning to their life and sufferings. Now' it is precisely the belief that they belong to such an entity that breeds sympathetic feelings in human beings and drives them to take the situation of others into account when they make their behavioural choices. We may therefore expect morality to gradually fall into decay and the role of religion to be correspondingly reduced as the market proves increasingly able to create the illusion that it can fill up man's deep existential wants (under the deceiving appearances of everchanging artefacts). The outcome of this evolution is the pervasive influence of what has been called a 'doctrine of self-preoccupation', that is, a doctrine that urges 'the individual to search for self-actualisation, i.e. to pursue his self interests with little regard for the wishes and opinions of other persons' (Berkowitz, 1970: 149; see also Hirsch, 1976: 141-3 and ch. 11). The problem is actually compounded by the fact that mass communication media that are largely responsible for the propagation of indi vidualistic consumption-centred values in contemporary market societies have come to play such an important role in the shaping of people's preferences and aspirations. The function of the family as a supplier of moral norms is therefore eroded on a double ground. On the one hand, the intensity of the parent-child relationship is reduced due to constant interference of media messages: in this case, instead of being reinforced, primary socialization is actually weakened by secondary socialization processes. On the other hand, the parents themselves are exposed to the new materialistic values so that primary socialization is itself being transformed in the sense that it increasingly neglects the teaching of other-regarding norms.

To adopt norm-guided behaviour, an individual should first recognize the dependence of others on him by becoming aware that his (potential) action has consequences for them. He must then have knowledge of the relevant moral norms and, finally, he must ascribe some responsibility to himself for the action. At each of these steps moral norms may be prevented from influencing his behaviour (Schwartz, 1970: 132). Unfortunately, the effect of the abovedescribed changes is precisely to make each of these three conditions increasingly hard to meet: individuals are less and less concerned with what happens to their fellow citizens (or the society at large) when they behave in a certain way; they arc little interested in norms or standards of behaviour that set constraints on their 'freedom' (the ideology of the 'free' society has worked beyond expectation); and they tend to shift responsibilities to other potential actors, on the system as a whole, on chance factors, etc.

The foregoing discussion thus suggests a working hypothesis that is quite in line with the dialectic approach followed by Marx and Schumpeter (the Schumpeter of Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy) to analyse the evolution of market societies. More specifically, capitalist development being based upon a high degree of division of labour and upon continuous processes of competitive innovation that call for ever-avid consumers, it tends to cause a gradual erosion of the moral norms on which the effective functioning of a market economy rests. Such a situation may lead to a state of things where a growing number of problems which the capitalist civilization itself creates or increases (in particular, the destruction of the ecological patrimony) are left unattended. As a consequence, not only the people's quality of life may be reduced but also the future basis of their material prosperity may be jeopardized. An alternative outcome is resource-preservation at the price of increased centralization of social life, the State substituting itself increasingly for a deficient private initiative. However, as we have already pointed out, state interventions are likely to be costly (with the consequence that people's incomes net of taxes will be impaired) and to lack effectiveness in so far as they are not backed by moral norms inducing people to respect the legal rules and to co-operate with the resourcepreserving agencies.