Altruism, Social Networks, and Social Capital: Some Interlinkages

Altruism, Social Networks, and Social Capital: Some Interlinkages

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-4995-8.ch003
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Larger bonding, friendship, and social networks can play an important role in constructing social capital. The question is whether altruism or altruistic behavior can help in bringing about larger bonding. Different incentives, expectations, and motivations guide altruistic behavior, which further affect the construct of social capital. In the long run, such behaviour can create an impact on social capital and on the social domain of sustainability. The chapter sheds light on these interlinkages.
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Sustainability comprises of social welfare as one of its essential element. Social welfare is often guided by how humans in a society interact with each other. It is also dependent on the nature of interactive relationship between people of a society. Behavior of people determines the nature of this relationship. In order to understand that nature it will be important to understand whether the behavior of people is prosocial or not. In this regard, one must mention of a paper titled - 'Directed Altruism and Enforced Reciprocity in Social Networks, by Stephen Leider, Markus M. Mobius, Tanya Rosenblat, Quoc - Anh Do, The Quarterly Journal of Economics, November 2009'. The paper raises fundamental questions about what is a prosocial behaviour and what determines them. It is important to understand these concepts and an outline of that understanding is attempted in the next segments of this chapter.

Along with the social domains, sustainability deals with environmental dimensions. Various literatures has established a relationship between economic, institutional, social, cultural and internal factors (e.g. motivation, environmental knowledge, awareness, values, attitudes, emotion, locus of control, responsibilities and priorities) and a pro environmental behavior. Rationalist models highlight that environmental knowledge leads to environmental awareness/attitude finally translating into a proenvironmental behavior. Hines. et al., (1986–87), Hungerford & Volk, Sia et al. (1985–86) proved empirically through a meta analysis of 128 pro environmental research case studies that such a behavior is guided by knowledge of issues, action strategies, verbal commitment, locus of control, attitudes and individual sense of responsibility. In this meta analysis, they create frameworks where attitudes, locus of control, personal responsibility establish personality factors. Moreover, personality factors along with knowledge of issues, actions, action skills, strategies create an intention finally culminating to a pro-environmental behavior. Altruism has also been applied in explaining proenvironmental and prosocial behavior. Here, one can say that altruism acts as a connect between proenvironmental and prosocial behavior which determine the environmental, social tenets of sustainability.

Lehman (1999) suggested that altruism is a kind of subset of prosocial behavior. This prosocial behavior thereafter guides sustainability of a society. Lehman (1999) hypothesize that people who are not altruistic, rather selfish and have a competitive orientation have a tendency to act less in a pro environmental way. People who are altruistic, have met their needs are more likely to act for a larger cause of environment and will be less driven by personal needs. They will value the larger cause of environment beyond their personal needs. Schwartz (1977) states that this kind of altruistic behavior will happen when an individual becomes aware of the suffering of other people and feels responsible to alleviate this suffering of the other people who are beyond his/her self and his/her immediate close by people. However Stern (1993) suggests that in addition to the altruistic orientation, social, egoistic and biospheric orientation also plays an important role. Stern et al. (1993) indicates that egoistic orientation is the strongest motivator for a proenvironmental behavior. This orientation acts more strongly than altruism and can act as a motivator as long as the action meets the needs and wants of the individual. Fietkau & Kessel (1981) brings in another factor like incentives for proenvironmental behavior as a causal factor behind proenvironmental behavior.

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