Rational Choice Theories of Politics and Society


  • James Johnson, University of Rochester

"Rational choice theory" actually consists of a set of theories, usually but not always mathematical, that investigate the ways that actions taken by rational individual decision-makers can interact in often surprising ways to generate stable aggregate outcomes. The aims of the workshop are to impart the basic techniques of rational choice modeling and to explore the intuitive and theoretical issues that motivate and limit any use of those techniques. The workshop especially is concerned with matters of interpretation and empirical testing, and with the problem of determining just what any particular class of rational choice theory tells us about the social and political world and how it purports to do so. Topics include models of voting, bargaining, collective action, social norms, institutions, and even culture. Readings are drawn from economics, political science, sociology, and anthropology. Class format throughout combines lecture and discussion, but the balance shifts from the former to the latter as the session progresses. Although the workshop does not presuppose familiarity with either game theory or the mathematics needed to solve game-theoretic problems, some prior knowledge of those topics will be an advantage. Students interested in this workshop are strongly advised to take a game theory course prior to enrolling.

Fees: Consult the fee structure.

Tags: rational choice, social choice, bargaining models, models of institutions, collective action models, models of voting

Course Sections

Section 1

Location: ICPSR -- Ann Arbor, MI

Date(s): June 26 - July 21

Time: 9:00 AM - 11:00 AM


  • James Johnson, University of Rochester