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

With Donald Green

This is the first comprehensive critical evaluation of the use of rational choice theory 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. In their final chapters, they anticipate and respond to a variety of possible rational choice responses to their arguments, thereby initiating a dialogue that is bound to continue for some time.