Rational Choice Theory

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Rational Choice Theory: Theoretical Traditions and Criticisms with Alternative Resolutions

“Man is a rational animal who always loses his temper when he is called upon to act in accordance with the dictates of reason.” As seen from Oscar Wilde’s famous quote, rationality is one of the most crucial and controversial subjects in studying human behavior. To study and examine this rationality, numerous scholars have tried to establish their own theories and generalize their explanation with empirical evidences from real world, which ultimately produces so called, the theory of rational choice. Rational Choice Theory is an approach to understand human behavior. The approach has long been the dominant paradigm in economics, but in recent several decades it has become more widely used in other fileds such as Sociology, Political Science, and Anthropology. The main purpose of this paper is to provide an overview of rational choice theory and briefly discuss its basic assumptions, critiques, political implication, and alternative explanations of individual choice mechanism. First of all, historical backgrounds of rational choice theory and its transition from the field of Economics to that of Political Science will be elaborated. Next, various definitions and meanings of the rational choice will be discussed. The basic assumptions of the rational choice approach with political implication will be followed. Several issues raised by rational choice theory will be followed after this discussion. This paper will suggest some of the main criticisms that have been levied against the rational choice approach. Limited empirical validity of rational choice theory and methodological individualism, which reveals innate problematic nature of the theory, will be discussed. Finally, alternative explanations of individual choice mechanism will sum up this discussion. Before elaborating its theoretical discussion, it is necessary to discuss historical backgrounds of rational choice



Bibliography: Coleman, James Samuel, and Thomas J. Fararo. Rational Choice Theory: Advocacy and Critique. Newbury Park: Sage Publications, 1992. Friedman, Jeffrey. The Rational Choice Controversy: Economic Models of Politics Reconsidered. New Haven, 1996. Maloy, J. S. "A Genealogy of Rational Choice: Rationalism, Elitism, and Democracy."Canadian Journal of Political Science 41.03 (2008): 749-771. Ostrom, Elinor. "A Behavioral Approach to the Rational Choice Theory of Collective Action." The American Political Science Review 92.01 (1998) Riker, William H. "The Political Psychology of Rational Choice Theory." Political Psychology 16.01 (1995): 23-34.

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