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Macmillan Higher Education Palgrave Higher Education

Rational Choice Theory

Potential and Limits

ISBN 9780230343795
Publication Date October 2011
Formats Ebook Paperback Hardcover 
Publisher Palgrave
Series Political Analysis

Few approaches in political science have generated so much controversy as rational choice theory. Some claim that the approach has made political science scientific. Its critics argue that it involves unrealistic assumptions about individual behaviour. While its tenets and benefits remain the subject of heated debate, rational choice theory is now established as a core approach in political science and one that is vital for contemporary students of the discipline to understand.

With an impressive degree of clarity, the book introduces the philosophical foundations, the methodology and the key issues of rational choice theory. It shows how the approach has been constructively used to explain political phenomena and also reflects more broadly on how theories are developed and used in political science. Balanced and insightful, this important new text gives a nuanced and elegant evaluation of the potential and limits of rational choice theory.

LINA ERIKSSON Lecturer in Philosophy at Flinders University, Australia.

What is Rational Choice Theory?
The Self-Interest Assumption
Culture, Identity and Symbols
Individuals and Institutions
The Use and Misuse of Models
The Micro-Level Mechanism


A subtle, insightful and provocative tour d'horizon, at once broad-brushed and pointillistic, which is sure to generate debate. I am not always persuaded, but I am impressed, and have learned much from her elegant portraits of the (many) rational choice approach(es).' - Kenneth A. Shepsle, Harvard University, USA
'Far enough removed to have critical distance, but close enough to understand the literature and what it seeks to achieve, this is a critique in the best sense of the word. Balanced, non-polemical, and examining the limits as well as the limitations of rational choice theory, it deftly and elegantly fills an important niche.' - Anthony J. McGann, University of California, Irvine, USA
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