Rational Choice Theory

Rational Choice Theory in Comparative Politics The field of comparative politics is one in which a variety of different approaches have been undertaken with varying results. Rational Choice in Comparative Politics attempt to devise a theoretical framework that explains the process of decision-making. The rational choice institutionalism was born out of the study of American congressional behavior. At the time scholars were trying to explain why congressional outcomes were considerably stable and they decided to look at institutions.

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They found that institutions of the Congress lowered transactions cost among legislators. Rational choice theory is influential and occupies large part of discussion in politics as well as in international relations. However it has been a controversial theory and challenged for a very long time. It professes to predict the political outcome in the future. Rational choice theory’s role in political is built on dual foundations presumptions that explains individual behavior which is the key to understanding the functioning of political institutions.

The behavior of political parties can be aggregated to understand the behavior of the group. Rational choice theory has been driven from Liberal belief and economic theory. It depends upon underlying notion of rationality. Rationality in this case can be described as “individual make decision that maximises the utility they expect to derive from making choices”. Therefore individuals or institutions are informed and are capable at making a correct decision.

The hypothesis of such theory is that individual acts in their self-interest without considerations for others. Such individuals are considered rational and calculating who seek to maximise their own advantage. The individuals have plenty of good information to make correct choice; the information comes from areas other than social, cultural or historical backgrounds. Partiality is relative, reasonable and mathematical techniques are used to shape the behaviours of individual from a set of defined maxims.

Similarly, in rational-choice theory, an organisation’s acts based on individuals can fall short to achieve the preferred goal, hence affecting the institution. A rational choice theorist presupposes that individuals have a unchanging set of inclinations and as such an individual behave in manner that maximises the accomplishment of these preferences. One of the distinctive hypotheses of rational choice theory sees politics as a progression of collective action problems.

Levi suggests that what formulates a characteristic upon rational choice theory from “the straightforward application of economics to polity” is that rational choice theory understands how different background institutional factors persuade individuals behaviors and choices. Supporters of the theory argue that political behaviour is better understood as well as social actions; it allows political analysts to develop advisory models, similar to those used in economic theory. The strong point of rational choice approach is that it combines scientific methods with social sciences.

The approach concentrates on scientific approach such as examining and asking questions, developing theory to answer questions, draw predictions from theory, conducting experiment, means of observation in order to confirm the predictions which originate from theory and rethinking the original question. The theory has been used to present insight into the activities of politicians, lobbyists, electorate and civil servants. It has had its most powerful influence on political analysis in what is referred to as institutional public choice theory.

Various weak points of the rational choice institutionalism include: (a) rational choice theory is not capable to provide an sufficient prognostic theory of action since it does not identify how predilections come about and why they differ from individual to individual; (b) sociological theory argue that the rational choice theory sees individuals construct institutions in order to advance their goals is mistaken because individuals cannot choose among institutions and rules; (c) rational choice institutionalism ignores social structure.

The rational choice institutionalist approach ought to be more useful for the analysis of interactions between organizations and individuals. It has been assumed that rational choice theory is collectively scientific model that can be used across different cultures and nations. Experts on cultural studies have extensively attacked this assumption. Person’s political actions are culturally bounded. It is hard to comprehend that a perfectly rational decision made by an individual, will every time be based on absolute and methodical information.

The rational choice theory further takes for granted decisions taken in a static environment. However, in reality it is unlikely to be true. As part of the wide-ranging neo-institutionalist method, rational choice theories include the considerable manner for examining politics. Issues such as the scarcity of resources including their distribution and the prudence of political actors in a world of shrewd games. What’s more, the concept building this approach is created by the examination of how reasonable political actors come to a decision to target individual interests.

For example, the weak group contains three necessities: “the impossibility of contradictory beliefs or preferences, the impossibility of intransitive preferences, and the conformity to the axioms of the probability calculus” The notion that the rational-choice approach is draw from the individual may seem appropriate; nevertheless defendants of rational-choice approach claim that it is in reality, the institution, which persuades the actions of the individual.

It can be argue that it is sensible and rational to characterise an individual’s reasonable decision as being representational of that individual’s own benefit. However, it is easier said than done to classify institutions as if they were individual or unified actors. Case in point, “individual action is assumed to be optimal adaptation to an institutional environment, and the interaction between individuals is assumed to be an optimal response to each other.

Therefore, the prevailing institutions (the rules of the game) determine the behavior of the actors, which in turn produces political or social outcomes. ” This is a powerful postulation, which offers little proof to sustain and reinforce above argument. Such argument is designed to show that individual represents the institution and individuals are incapable of functioning outside of the main institutions concluding that individuals respond to their institutional environment.

Promoters of the rational choice theory emphasis the strong points of such method as it provide a more fixed scientific approach which joins all the social sciences. Theory is clear, exact and short as its conclusions stem from understandably small-restricted set of accepted, self-evident doctrine. It exhibits considerable predictive and explanatory power with a broad scope encompassing many experiences existing in many disciplines. Results of rational choice frequently sound like common sense, although it can also reach at unanticipated conclusions, which may even be counterintuitive.

It focuses on the scientific methods such as surveying and raising questions, initiating theories to respond problem, receive forecasts from the theory, creating research or method of examination in order to confirm the predictions that developed from the theory and rethinking the original questions. Supporters of the theory argue that such research that embarks on the task of developing numerous analogies within the scientific method is superior. Furthermore it is not only to build theories or derive predictions, but also to design and perform tests for theories.

Rational choice theories have occupied a significant place in the study of International Relations for several years. Classical “realism,” in International Relations considers that nations are motivated above all by an aspiration to enhance the influence of the state, be it for the purpose of expansion or for the purpose of security from expansionist predisposition of other states. Realism bears a resemblance to rational choice approaches in its practical individualism, though the individual is the state rather than the person and highlighting on “self-interest” as opposed to moral commitments.

Opponents of the rational choice theory argue that much of the research conducted is weak and when methodologically corrected many of the outcomes are no longer true. Variables used in conducting analysis such as preferences and belief is impossible to be empirical examined or evaluated. In view of the fact that key variables used in rational choice theory research is hard to study, comment are made that these mathematical models have insignificant function in real life situations. Even so, there have been efforts to test rational choice theory research using quantitative and qualitative methods.

Several of them have received empirical supports while others have unsuccessful. Rational Choice theory’s comprehensible intent was to explain the apparent off-based conclusion of political actors by discovering and analysing every possible explanation, outcome and intention behind individual and or institutional decision. It appears decisions are oftentimes, and perhaps most times, designed moves, which resulted in, predictable outcomes. Its loyalty to scientific improvement by means of hypothesis-generating, fact-finding, testability, and partial universalism is critical for comparative studies.

Additionally, rational choice a theorist has accordingly commenced to explore the role of culture, norms and other ideational and cognitive factors in rational choice theory. Such efforts represent future direction of rational choice model in comparative politics. Concern with individuals decision making emerge based on attained information to achieve the desired goal of the institution. Referances 1. Bruce, Steve, “Choice and Ration: A Critique of Rational Choice Theory”, Oxford University Press, 1999, pp 30-46, 121 2. Munck, Gerardo L. Rational Choice Theory in Comparative Politics”, Wiarda, Howard J. 2002. New Directions in Comparative Politics. Charpter 9, Boulder: Westview. 3. Munck, Gerardo L. “Rational Choice Theory in Comparative Politics”, Wiarda, Howard J. 2002. New Directions in Comparative Politics. Charpter 9, Boulder: Westview. 4. Levi, Margaret. “A Model, A Method, and A Map: Rational Choice in Comparative and Historical Analysis”, Lichbach, Mark Irving, and Alan S. Zuckerman 1997. Comparative Politics: Rationality, Culture, and Structure.

Charpter 2, New York: Cambridge University Press. 5. Ostrom, Elinor, “A Behavioral Approach to the Rational Choice Theory of Collective Action Presidential Address, American Political Science Association, 1997” The Americal Political Science Review Vol. 92, No. 1 published March 1998, pp1 – 14 6. Dowding Keith, Desmond King, “Preferences, Institutions and Rational Choice” Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1995, pp 60-65, 249-256 7. Tsebelis George, “Nested Games: Rational Choice in Comparative Politics” University of California Press 1990, p 24 8.

Tsebelis George, “Nested Games: Rational Choice in Comparative Politics” University of California Press 1990, p40 9. McCubbins, M. D. ; Thies, M. F. , “Rationality and the Foundations of Positive Political Theory”, Rebaiasan [Leviathan], Vol. 19, Autumn, 1996, pp. 3-32. 10. Hollis, M. ; Smith, S. , “Explaining and Understanding International Relations”, Oxford University Press, New York, 1990, p10 11. Bennett, D. S. ; Stam, A. C. , “A Universal Test of An Expected Utility Theory of War”, International Studies Quarterly, Vol. 44, No. 3. , 2000, pp. 451-80. ——————————————- [ 1 ]. Munck, Gerardo L. “Rational Choice Theory in Comparative Politics”, Wiarda, Howard J. 2002. New Directions in Comparative Politics. Charpter 9, Boulder: Westview. [ 2 ]. Munck, Gerardo L. “Rational Choice Theory in Comparative Politics”, Wiarda, Howard J. 2002. New Directions in Comparative Politics. Charpter 9, Boulder: Westview. [ 3 ]. Levi, Margaret. “A Model, A Method, and A Map: Rational Choice in Comparative and Historical Analysis”, Lichbach, Mark Irving, and Alan S. Zuckerman 1997. Comparative Politics: Rationality, Culture, and Structure.

Charpter 2, New York: Cambridge University Press. [ 4 ]. Ostrom, Elinor, “A Behavioral Approach to the Rational Choice Theory of Collective Action Presidential Address, American Political Science Association, 1997” The Americal Political Science Review Vol. 92, No. 1 published March 1998, pp1 – 14 [ 5 ]. Dowding Keith, Desmond King, “Preferences, Institutions and Rational Choice” Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1995, pp 60-65, 249-256 [ 6 ]. Tsebelis George, “Nested Games: Rational Choice in Comparative Politics” University of California Press 1990, p 24 [ 7 ].

Tsebelis George, “Nested Games: Rational Choice in Comparative Politics” University of California Press 1990, p40 [ 8 ]. McCubbins, M. D. & Thies, M. F. , “Rationality and the Foundations of Positive Political Theory”, Rebaiasan [Leviathan], Vol. 19, Autumn, 1996, pp. 3-32. [ 9 ]. Hollis, M. & Smith, S. , “Explaining and Understanding International Relations”, Oxford University Press, New York, 1990, p10 [ 10 ]. Bennett, D. S. & Stam, A. C. , “A Universal Test of An Expected Utility Theory of War”, International Studies Quarterly, Vol. 44, No. 3. , 2000, pp. 451-80.

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