Towards asociological rational choice theory

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter discusses the utility of general theory in the social sciences, and of rational choice theory in particular. It focuses onthin and thick versions of rational choice, and argues for the superiority of the latter approach. The chapter describes some of the implications of thick rational choice theory for the practice of historical sociology, a field that has become notoriously skeptical of the charms of general theory. General theories in the social sciences attract scholars the way naked flames attractmoths. Regarded as stable equilibria, in which agents have no incentive to deviate from their course of action given others’ behavior, social outcomes can be both unintended and undesirable. If social structures are conceived analogously aslimiting individual action, then individual differences should loom larger in determining organizational than market outcomes, for organizationsare more highly structured. All complete social explanations must include an analysis of individual motives and actions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Social Sciences and Rationality
Subtitle of host publicationPromise, Limits, and Problems
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9781351322874
ISBN (Print)0765802325, 9780765802323
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


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