Since coined by Comte, altruism has become one of the most controversial concepts in social and behavioral sciences, although altruistic behavior and related topics have been successfully studied within a number of fields. Oddly, while the theme of altruism was of primary significance in classical sociology of morality, modern sociology seems to have relatively little interest in studying altruism and altruistic behavior (although there are some exceptions) and the field is largely dominated by other social and behavioral sciences. The article aims at reconsidering altruism as a concept and as an area of research in sociology of morality by reviewing the major concepts of altruism in classical sociology and modern behavioral sciences. The article argues that, although for the ‘new’ sociology of morality it is necessary to take into account behavioral and psychological perspectives, a promising sociological approach to the study of altruism in different social contexts can be based on renewing the classical focus on the normative components of moral behavior.
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