Economics? A Simple Materialistic Description


However, the process goes yet further. What if the things get even more "chaotic?" Let us say that order breaks down further and the "multiple majorities" break apart as well. They create not only a crisis for the political participants, but also for the political scientists trying to describe the process. Voting instability and disequilibrium are the norm in politics. Political scientists like Shepsle have learned to accept this as the norm in their discipline. Learning the hard way, they have found that tastes and the expression of those tastes are not necessarily autonomous or decisive on their own. They have to be induced or manipulated on the one hand, while being channeled, expressed and revealed on the other hand.

This organic treatment of preferences permits an analysis of particular clusters of preferences while also dealing with their outer features and effects. In this way, the empirical relationship between social and individual choice and the attendant effects (intended and non-intended) can be determined.

Further creating order from chaos, rational choice theory comes to the rescue, possibly. However, not all scholars agree. It seems that this approach may be deeply suspect. If the detractors are right, it seems that if rational choice theorists are to contribute to a general understanding or politics, they will have to fundamentally rethink their approaches so that they can contribute to the study of politics.

Unfortunately, there may be a fundamental series of methodological defects. The defects may originate from the tendency of rational choice theorists to defend universal theories of politics (Marx, Smith, etc.). The results can be tests that are so poorly conducted as to make their results moot. From reading Green and Shapiro, it can be gathered that by properly conducting the tests, the results actually undermine rational choice theory at worst or at best lend support for propositions that are lacking in originality and are so commonplace as to not be worth mentioning. In other words, why go through the exercise at all?

Green and Shapiro are not totally negative regarding rational choice theory however. With a reformulation of the questions, test procedures and a more careful test methodology, testable and verifiable results are possible. Certainly, the debate will continue.

However, after all of the readings, one has to question whether or not the particular fundamental flaws can be dealt with. For instance, is it legitimate to assume that individuals choose actions based upon stable preferences and constraints? What if the individual is not rational or insane or not rational or sane according to our standards, such as a Hitler or a Stalin? Also, if the exercise produces results that are only good speculative models, why conduct the exercise at all?

If these issues can not be surmounted, it is certainly legitimate to question the current learning paradigm. Is there science in social science? Is the term an oxymoron? If so, we may have to assume more of an inductive approach and then conduct comparison and contrast on real situations in the real world to get any handle on predictability at all.

Works Cited:

Becker, G. 1976. The economic approach to human behavior. Chicago:

Green, D., & Shapiro, I. 1994. Pathologies of rational choice theory: a critique of applications in political science. New Haven: Yale University.

Riker, W. 1990. "Political science and rational choice." In J. Alt and K. Shepsle, Perspectives on positive political economy (pp 163-81). New York:

Shepsle, K. & Bonchek, M.. 1997. Analyzing politics: rationality behavior, and institutions. NY: Norton.

Shepsle, K. 1986 "Institutional equilibrium and equilibrium institutions." In

H. Weisberg, Political science: the science of politics…