a1 Università Milano-Bicocca
a2 University of East Anglia
This paper reappraises the idea, traceable to Adam Smith, of a fundamental distinction between market transactions and genuinely social relationships. On Smith's account, each party to a market transaction pursues his own interests, subject only to the law of contract. Using the work of Smith's contemporary Antonio Genovesi as our starting point, we reconstruct an alternative understanding of market interactions as instances of a wider class of reciprocal relationships in civil society, characterized by joint intentions for mutual assistance. We consider the implications of our arguments for current debates about whether marketed personal care services can be genuinely caring.
* Earlier versions of this paper were presented at a conference at the University of Naples ‘Federico II’ to mark the 250th anniversary of Antonio Genovesi's appointment to the Chair of Commerce and Mechanics, and at a conference on The Common Good at the Pontifical University of St Thomas, Rome. We are grateful for comments from participants at those meetings, and for editorial suggestions from Luc Bovens and two anonymous referees. Bruni's work was supported by Econometica Center (Milan). Sugden's work was supported by the Economic and Social Research Council (award no. RES 051 27 0146).