Much of the interest in ethical behaviour stems from the desire of society to control greed in our everyday
dealings. The study of ethical values has attracted scholars from various disciplines and schools of thought. The ethical perception varies with the society's politico-economic environment and the contingency of the situation.
It was in the beginning of the 19th century that, in pure theory, the concept of social value came into prominence. The founders of what is usually called the 'modern' system of theory, as distinguished from the 'classical', never spoke of social, but only of individual value. Pure theory has an individualistic character. Almost everyone starts with wants and their satisfaction, and takes utility more or less exclusively as the basis of his/her analysis. Individuals are considered as independent units or agencies. This is so because only individuals can feel wants. Certain assumptions concerning those wants and the effects of satisfaction on their intensity give us our utility curves, which, therefore, have a clear meaning only for individuals (Schumpeter, 1908). Same reasoning cannot be directly applied to society as a whole. Society as such, having no brain or nerves in the physical sense, cannot feel wants and does not, therefore, have utility curves like those of individuals. For theory, it is irrelevant why people demand certain goods; the only important point is that all things are demanded, produced, and paid for because individuals want them. Every demand on the market is therefore an individualistic one, although, from another point of view, it often is an altruistic or a social one.
The only wants which for the purpose of economic theory, should be called strictly social, are consciously asserted by the whole community. The means of satisfying such wants are valued not by individuals who merely interact, but by all individuals acting as a community, consciously, and jointly.