The emergence of norms from conflicts over just distributions

By:Luis Miller (CESS, Nuffield College, Oxford, Great Britain)
Heiko Rauhut (ETH Zurich, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology)
Fabian Winter (Max Planck Institute of Economics, Jena, Germany)
URL:http://d.repec.org/n?u=RePEc:jrp:jrpwrp:2011-018&r=ltv
Why is it that well-intentioned actions can create persistent conflicts? While norms are widely regarded as a source for cooperation, this article proposes a novel theory in which the emergence of norms can be understood as a bargaining process in which normative conflicts explain the finally emerging norm. The theory is tested with a dynamical experiment on conflicts over the consideration of equality, effort or efficiency for the distribution of joint earnings. Normative conflict is measured by the number of rejected offers in a recursive bargaining game. The emerging normative system is analyzed by feedback cycles between micro- and macro-level. It is demonstrated that more normative cues cause more normative conflict. Further, under the structural conditions of either simple or complex situations, the convergence towards a simple and widely shared norm is likely. In contrast, in moderately complex situations, convergence is unlikely and several equally reasonable norms co-exist. The findings are discussed with respect to the integration of sociological conflict theory with the bargaining concept in economic theory.
Keywords:social norms, normative conflict, bargaining, cooperation, experiment
JEL:C91

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