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Pathologies of Rational Choice Theory: A Critique of Applications in Political Science

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This is the first comprehensive critical evaluation of the use of rational choice explanations in political science. Writing in an accessible and nontechnical style, Donald P. Green and Ian Shapiro assess rational choice theory where it is reputed to be most successful: the study of collective action, the behavior of political parties and politicians, and such phenomena as This is the first comprehensive critical evaluation of the use of rational choice explanations in political science. Writing in an accessible and nontechnical style, Donald P. Green and Ian Shapiro assess rational choice theory where it is reputed to be most successful: the study of collective action, the behavior of political parties and politicians, and such phenomena as voting cycles and Prisoner's Dilemmas. In their hard-hitting critique, Green and Shapiro demonstrate that the much-heralded achievements of rational choice theory are in fact deeply suspect and that fundamental rethinking is needed if rational choice theorists are to contribute to the understanding of politics. Green and Shapiro show that empirical tests of rational choice theories are marred by a series of methodological defects. These defects flow from the characteristic rational choice impulse to defend universal theories of politics. As a result, many tests are so poorly conducted as to be irrelevant to evaluating rational choice models. Tests that are properly conducted either tend to undermine rational choice theories or to lend support for propositions that are banal. Green and Shapiro offer numerous suggestions as to how rational choice propositions might be reformulated as parts of testable hypotheses for the study of politics. In a final chapter they anticipate and respond to a variety of rational choice counterarguments, thereby initiating a dialogue that is bound to continue for some time.


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This is the first comprehensive critical evaluation of the use of rational choice explanations in political science. Writing in an accessible and nontechnical style, Donald P. Green and Ian Shapiro assess rational choice theory where it is reputed to be most successful: the study of collective action, the behavior of political parties and politicians, and such phenomena as This is the first comprehensive critical evaluation of the use of rational choice explanations in political science. Writing in an accessible and nontechnical style, Donald P. Green and Ian Shapiro assess rational choice theory where it is reputed to be most successful: the study of collective action, the behavior of political parties and politicians, and such phenomena as voting cycles and Prisoner's Dilemmas. In their hard-hitting critique, Green and Shapiro demonstrate that the much-heralded achievements of rational choice theory are in fact deeply suspect and that fundamental rethinking is needed if rational choice theorists are to contribute to the understanding of politics. Green and Shapiro show that empirical tests of rational choice theories are marred by a series of methodological defects. These defects flow from the characteristic rational choice impulse to defend universal theories of politics. As a result, many tests are so poorly conducted as to be irrelevant to evaluating rational choice models. Tests that are properly conducted either tend to undermine rational choice theories or to lend support for propositions that are banal. Green and Shapiro offer numerous suggestions as to how rational choice propositions might be reformulated as parts of testable hypotheses for the study of politics. In a final chapter they anticipate and respond to a variety of rational choice counterarguments, thereby initiating a dialogue that is bound to continue for some time.

30 review for Pathologies of Rational Choice Theory: A Critique of Applications in Political Science

  1. 4 out of 5

    May Ling

    While I understand that the theories posited in this piece are integral to understanding the basis of game theory, I still think it's missing a bigger picture associated with causality. Now the reality is this book got 3.5 stars because it addressed this issue in the final chapters. However, the failure to frame this book around what this type of analysis can and can not do, was my real problem. The conclusions are quite false of one takes the book at its word without that ever important last ch While I understand that the theories posited in this piece are integral to understanding the basis of game theory, I still think it's missing a bigger picture associated with causality. Now the reality is this book got 3.5 stars because it addressed this issue in the final chapters. However, the failure to frame this book around what this type of analysis can and can not do, was my real problem. The conclusions are quite false of one takes the book at its word without that ever important last chapter.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Mike Edwards

    An attack on rational choice theory, and while it's a fast read, the book relies on a number of straw-men arguments. An over-reliance on the assumption of rational behavior will certainly lead to inaccurate models in some cases, but the version of rational choice theory presented here is so stilted as to be almost unrecognizable to the actual practitioners of rational choice theory. An attack on rational choice theory, and while it's a fast read, the book relies on a number of straw-men arguments. An over-reliance on the assumption of rational behavior will certainly lead to inaccurate models in some cases, but the version of rational choice theory presented here is so stilted as to be almost unrecognizable to the actual practitioners of rational choice theory.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Mark Schrad

  4. 5 out of 5

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  5. 4 out of 5

    Ike Sharpless

  6. 5 out of 5

    Swas

  7. 4 out of 5

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  8. 5 out of 5

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  9. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Campbell

  10. 4 out of 5

    Benjamin

  11. 4 out of 5

    Adnanr23

  12. 5 out of 5

    Paolo Mastrangelo

  13. 4 out of 5

    Raymond Budd

  14. 4 out of 5

    Myo

  15. 5 out of 5

    Laura

  16. 5 out of 5

    Nate

  17. 5 out of 5

    David

  18. 4 out of 5

    Cortney R

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    Daniel Rueda

  20. 5 out of 5

    Aaron Crofut

  21. 4 out of 5

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  22. 4 out of 5

    Peter Geyer

  23. 5 out of 5

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  24. 4 out of 5

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  26. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Nielson

  27. 4 out of 5

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  28. 4 out of 5

    Deena Bayoumi

  29. 5 out of 5

    Richard

  30. 5 out of 5

    I Lagardien

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