Economics, Relationships, and Happiness
New City Press, 2012
The crisis that market societies are undergoing is essentially a crisis of relationships. It originates in the illusion that the market, through the actions of an “invisible hand” operating in impersonal market relationships, can present us a good common life exempt from the possibility of being wounded by the other.
Luigino Bruni offers an authoritative and innovative look at the cultural and anthropological premises underlying contemporary market economies and their promises. He suggests that the market has betrayed its promises and points out the need for balancing the increasing tendency toward isolation with the human need for relationships.
Bruni proposes gratuitousness – free and open reciprocity, quite different from altruism – as a means of maximizing the benefits of the market (and the equality and freedom that market contracts propose) without losing the joy that comes from putting the relationship with the others in the market as the primary good.
Luigino Bruni is one of the few scholars with both the knowledge and courage to seek to integrate the humanities and social sciences. He has written a stimulating and thought-provoking book that is well worth reading.
Richard Easterlin, Professor of Economics, University of Southern California
What is most remarkable about Bruni’s book is its refusal to romanticize social relations – they are at once necessary to human happiness and a source of human sorrow and pain. One of the attractions of market exchange is its impersonal nature, but a market economy cannot by itself promote human happiness. Bruni proposes neither a utopian dream of universal brotherhood nor a libertarian values-free market. Instead, he sketches a framework within which we may more carefully identify the respective roles of state and market in a social order in which social relations are recognized as central.
Andy Yuengert, Professor of Economics, Pepperdine University
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Luigino Bruni, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Political Economics, Università di Milano-Bicocca and Resident Faculty at Istituto Universitario Sophia in Loppiano, Italy. He is co-editor of the International Review of Economics (IREC, Springer) and has written numerous books and articles, including the award-winning Civil Happiness: Economics and Human Flourishing in Historical Perspective and The Economy of Communion (ed.).
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