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    STUDIA EPHEMERIDES - Issue no. 2 / 2007  

  Abstract:  For a long time, economists, political theorists and sociologists have sought to explain the emergence of social norms, those principles that guide individual and community behavior. However, no unified opinion exists in these disciplines. As an example, some economists often use supergame equilibria to characterize social norms because they allow players to form strategies for punishing deviations and these promote community behavior. A second group of economists used Nash’s bargaining solution to argue that the equal division of output is a “social norm” for sharecropping situations (Bell and Zusman, 1976). Finally, in the same field, a third group included equilibrium through communication (Myerson, 1982) and coalition proof Nash equilibrium (DeMarzo, 1992) in order to characterize social norms. The same heterogeneity is registered in the field of sociology. Political theorists tried to emphasize the emergence of social norms combining the contractualist tradition coming from Rousseau, Locke, and Hobbes with rational choice and law and economics approaches. Congruently, Axelrod (1981) advanced the ides that a particular strategy of those actors involved in individual or collective games leads to the emergence, respect and institutionalization of norms. We argue, using rational choice arguments, that social norms emerge spontaneously out of people interactions in infinitely repeated games, in which communication plays an essential role, and people comply with them without the interference of the state through its institutions. The paper does not combine the normative and empirical level, dealing with the latter and discussing what is happening in real life situations not what should happen in ideal situations. Social norms are clearly defined and differentiated from moral and legal norms in the first section of this paper. Starting from Hardin (1987) and Gibbons’ positions (2000), according to which citizens through coordination games reach different implicit or explicit agreements. We model a situation in which the social norms are a result of infinitely repeated games between the citizens of a community, facilitated by direct and indirect communication. Although meant to produce better outcomes for citizens, the state’s intervention with respect to social norms has negative effects most of the time. Therefore, we argue that there is no need for state intervention at the level of social norms; the state cannot impose, but only influence or shape, social norms through law and regulations. However, the necessary elements for emergence of norms are the perspective of future (a credible shadow of the future) and communication.  
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