Socio-cultural Evolution, Institutionalized Dispositions, And Rational Expressive Behavior



Abstract. This paper explores the possibility of grounding human behavior in a social space and characterizing it as a rational expressive, norm-guided behavior based on institutionalized dispositions under bounded rationality. For this purpose, we first review critically the three major theories of cultural evolution, namely, Adam Smith's theory of moral sentiments, Veblen's theory of leisure class, and Bourdieu's theory of habitus and distinction, in order to abstract the common core that provides a basis on which to build a theory of rational expressive behavior under the constraints of economic factors, information flow, social sanctions, and psychological satisfaction. In particular, the paper addresses the following questions: (1) how preferences turn into institutionalized dispositions through habituation, (2) how a socio-economic order evolves as a product of institutionalized dispositions, cultural capital of life-styles, expressive symbolism, and social norms, (3) how social want emerges as a convoluted want reconstituted of social facts of life-styles and desire for upper status identification, (5) how is the behavior based on this want related to the bounded rationality in problem solving. Our inquiry will show that human behavior embedded in a socio-cultural context can be characterized as rational behavior seeking symbolic profits defined by the social want satisfying capacity of choice objects, and that such rational behavior is the source of predictable behavior that can serve as a medium of cultural evolution.

Keywords. Institutionalization, Common normative values, Dispositions, Evolution, Expressive behavior, Symbolic profit, Social want, Lifestyles, Emulation and avoidance, Bounded rationality.

JEL. Z13, B52, B25.


Institutionalization; Common normative values; Dispositions; Evolution; Expressive behavior; Symbolic profit; Social want; Lifestyles; Emulation and avoidance; Bounded rationality.

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