De Economist

, Volume 145, Issue 4, pp 491–520 | Cite as

Etzioni versus Becker: Do Moral Sentiments differ from Ordinary Tastes?

  • Elias L. Khalil


There are two competing definitions of economics. One, exemplified in Etzioni's work, stipulates that economics is the study of one kind of ends, the pursuit of material benefits (welfare). This definition entails that material ends are incommensurable with moral ends. The other, expressed in Becker's work, registers that economics is the analysis of one aspect of all ends, optimization. This definition implies that material and moral ends are commensurable. The paper finds that each definition has its own shortcomings. The paper outlines an alternative view, illustrated by the difference between gifts and grants, which promises to supplant the shortcomings of each definition.

substantive utility symbolic utility (respect and integrity) by-product effect the gift/grant distinction 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elias L. Khalil
    • 1
  1. 1.Ohio State UniversityUSA

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