Civil Economy: An Alternative to the Social Market Economy? Analysis in the Framework of Individual versus Institutional Ethics

  • María Guadalupe Martino
Original Paper


The Civil Economy (CE) approach, as developed by Italian economists Luigino Bruni and Stefano Zamagni, aims at introducing reciprocity into the economy as a humanizing factor. Despite being presented as an innovative perspective, the CE approach shares many characteristics with the German model of Social Market Economy (SME). The present paper compares both approaches, showing that they in fact share a normative basis and similar aims but address them from diverse points of view; namely, CE addresses them from a virtue ethics perspective and SME from an institutional ethics one. This leads them to stress different aspects and to focus on diverse problems. Therefore, CE would not constitute an alternative to SME but a complement. Thus, a combination of both approaches should allow each to take advantage of their respective strengths and lead to a better result in terms of the common good.


Civil economy Social market economy Constitutional economics 



I would like to thank Prof. Dr. Christian Müller and Prof. Dr. Marcelo Resico as well as the editor and two anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments and suggestions, while retaining the responsibility for any errors or omissions. I am also grateful to the KAAD for the financial support.


This study was funded by Katholischer Akademischer Ausländer-Dienst (KAAD).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Informed Consent

No human participants involved.

Research Involving Human and Animal Rights

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Economic EducationUniversity of MünsterMünsterGermany

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