French sociologist Auguste Comte was the first started to write on altruism. He wanted to build a new type of society based on his positive science of society, where altruism and ‘‘sympathetic instincts’’ would play a vital role. British sociologist Benjamin Kidd studied social evolution and concluded that adoption of the Christianity has led to a resurgence of social progress. It introduced an "ultra-rational" sanction for unsocial behavior, while, on the other hand, it created an altruistic ethic. This led to the emancipation of the masses and the selective struggle between individuals within a society. Protestantism was an economic revolt of the rising middle class, but it also led to expansive altruism that gave political, economic, and social rights to the masses. Kidd's approach to evolution emphasizes the balance between the struggle for survival and altruism. French sociologist Émile Durkheim introduces four basic types of suicide: 1) egoistic, 2) anomic, 3) fatalistic, and 4) altruistic. The altruistic type of suicide is characteristic of individuals who are extremely integrated into society and who are willing to sacrifice their lives to fulfill their duty to society - the best example is the traditional suicide of widows in India during their husbands' funerals.
George Herbert Mead believed that altruism is based on the capacity to ‘‘take the role of the other’’. Jean Piaget sees the capacity for altruism as a part of the developmental process of children. In his works, Pitirim Sorokin expressed his fear of the decline of, what he calls, the "sensate" cultural aspect in modern culture. He saw that this is evident in many areas: art, ethical system, the system of universal truths, science, understanding of freedom, declining family ties, political system (where the minority exercises power without adequate control), increasing state of anomie, increasing conflicts and wars. He believed that the best solution for the decline of sensate culture is to increase altruistic love, which will give positive effects both on the social and individual levels. Altruistic love will contribute to increasing cooperation, mutual assistance, and creativity and create conditions for achieving social harmony.
There are also sociobiological theories of altruistic behavior, which propose three different mechanisms that can create altruistic behavior suggested: kin selection, reciprocal altruism, and group selection. American sociologist and proponent of sociobiology Joseph Lopreato proposes the introduction of a modified "maximization principle". This principle refers to the evolutionary strategy of all species to increase "inclusive fitness" over time, that is, the survival of those genes that gave some biological species the greatest chance of survival. In humans, culture becomes a very important mediator between biological evolution and natural selection. The emergence of the idea of the soul is a by-product of the sublimation of genetic activity into moral and altruistic activity. The idea of the soul, which is a type of self-deception, has enabled the emergence of altruistic behavior, without the emergence of purely altruistic genes in the human genome. Lopreato believes that mortality and fertility rates have always been very similar, throughout history, and in different societies and that this is a reflection of a genetically innate strategy that acts as a regulatory mechanism.
Durkheim. Suicide (1897);
Gusti. Egoismus und Altruismus (1904);
Kidd. Social Evolution (1894);
Lopreato. Human Nature and Biocultural Evolution (1984);
Mansbridge, Jane J. (ed.) Beyond Self-Interest (1990);
McDougall, William. Introduction to Social Psychology (1908);
Sober, Elliot, and David Sloan Wilson. Unto Others: The Evolution and Psychology of Unselfish Behavior (1998);
Sorokin. Social and Cultural Dynamics, 4 vols. (1937-1941);
- Altruistic Love: A Study of American ‘Good Neighbors’ and Christian Saints (1950).