Over the last few years we have seen many economists trying to take interpersonal relations into account and to rescue Homo oeconomicus from the loneliness to which he was confined.1 However, in analysing those works, I was struck by the fact that – at least for most of them – interpersonal relations are considered as ‘positive’: ‘positive’ for individuals and ‘positive’ for the group they belong to. We can find a good illustration of this optimistic vision in the little story presented by Gui in the introduction to the special issue of Annals of Public and Cooperative Economics devoted to this question. Speaking of two identical residential buildings, he writes:

The yard of the first was full of expensive flowers, but people never met there. … The yard of the second building had ordinary flowers, but people often met there, while their children played together. … Intangible phenomena make life gloomy in the first building … and fun in the second. …

(Gui 2000: 133)

Therefore, according to a first thesis more or less implicit in most economic analysis of human interactions, these interactions are ‘positive’ for the individual. They not only give opportunities of material gain for the both parties, but they are also synonymous with ‘sociality, gathering and friendship’ (ibid.: 133). ‘Maintenance of rich interpersonal relations is not even only a question of welfare or of preference satisfaction, but it is a question of human “thriving”, or of personal realization’ claims Gui (ibid.: 140). He quotes the French philosopher Emmanuel Mounier, who ‘warns us that the establishment of relations of mutual openness and genuine communication represents one of the highest peaks of human experience, a true “mutual fertilizing”’ (ibid.: 137). So if we take into account interpersonal relations in economy, we can break with the ‘dismal science’ of traditional economics (ibid.).2