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Cover Foreign Policy

7. Foreign policy decision making  

Rational, psychological, and neurological models

Janice Gross Stein

This chapter examines the use of rational, psychological, and neurological models in foreign policy decision making. It begins with a discussion of two commonsensical models of rationality in decision making. In the first model, rational decision making refers to the process that people should use to choose. The second, more demanding, models of rational choice expect far more from decision makers. Borrowing heavily from micro-economics, they expect decision makers to generate subjective probability estimates of the consequences of the options that they consider, to update these estimates as they consider new evidence, and to maximize their subjective expected utility. The chapter proceeds by exploring psychological models and the so-called cognitive revolution, the relevance of cognitive psychology to foreign policy analysis, and the ways that the study of the neuroscience of emotion and cognition can be extended to the analysis of foreign policy and to decision making.

Chapter

Cover Comparative Politics

2. Approaches in comparative politics  

B. Guy Peters

This chapter examines five main approaches in comparative politics that represent important contributions: old and new institutional analysis, interest approach, ideas approach, individual approach, and the influence of the international environment. The role of ‘interaction’ is also explored. After explaining the use of theory in comparative political analysis, the chapter considers structural functionalism, systems theory, Marxism, corporatism, institutionalism, governance, and comparative political economy. It also discusses behavioural and rational choice approaches, how political culture helps in understanding political behaviour in different countries, self-interest in politics, and the implications of globalization for comparative politics. The chapter concludes by assessing the importance of looking at political processes and of defining what the ‘dependent variables’ are.

Chapter

Cover European Integration Theory

6. Rational Choice and Historical Institutionalism  

Mark A. Pollack

The European Union (EU) is without question the most densely institutionalized international organization in the world, and the body of literature known under the rubric of ‘the new institutionalism’ has been applied with increasing success to the study of the Union as a polity and to European integration as a process. This chapter examines rational choice and historical institutionalism and their contributions to EU studies. Following a brief introduction, it traces the origins of rational choice and historical institutionalism, both of which explore the role of institutions in political life, albeit with different emphases. Next, it turns to the EU, exploring the ways in which scholars have drawn on institutionalist theories to understand and explain the legislative, executive, and judicial politics of the EU, as well as the development of EU institutions and policies over time. An in-depth case study applies institutionalist theory to the task of explaining the origins of the Eurozone sovereign debt crisis as well as the EU’s response. Historical institutionalist theory, the author suggests, generates important insights into the suboptimal design of the original Maastricht EMU provisions, as well as the EU’s incremental response and the suboptimal outcome of the crisis. The author concludes by suggesting that institutionalist theories offer a variety of valuable insights into the design, effects, and development of EU institutions, while at the same time remaining compatible with other theoretical approaches in the EU scholar’s toolkit.

Chapter

Cover Comparative Politics

2. Approaches in Comparative Politics  

B. Guy Peters

This chapter examines five main approaches in comparative politics that represent important contributions: old and new institutional analysis, interest approach, ideas approach, individual approach, and the influence of the international environment. The role of ‘interaction’ is also explored. After explaining the use of theory in comparative political analysis, the chapter considers structural functionalism, systems theory, Marxism, corporatism, institutionalism, governance, and comparative political economy. It also discusses behavioural and rational choice approaches, how political culture helps to understand political behaviour in different countries, self-interest in politics, and the implications of globalization for comparative politics. The chapter concludes by assessing the importance of looking at political processes and of defining what the ‘dependent variables’ are.

Chapter

Cover Politics in the Developing World

3. Institutional Perspectives  

Lise Rakner and Vicky Randall

This chapter examines the role of institutions and how institutionalism is applied in the analysis of politics in the developing world. It begins with a discussion of three main strands of institutionalism: sociological institutionalism, rational choice institutionalism, and historical institutionalism. It then considers political institutions in developing countries as well as the interrelationship between formal and informal institutions. Three cases are presented: the case from sub-Saharan Africa illustrates the salience of neo-patrimonial politics and competing informal and formal institutions, the second case relates to campaign clientelism in Peru and the third is concerned with electoral quotas in India. The chapter concludes by addressing the question of the extent to which the new institutionalism is an appropriate tool of analysis for developing countries.

Chapter

Cover Global Environmental Politics

3. States  

This chapter examines how states have very different preferences in global environmental politics. These state preferences are formed and shaped in a co-evolving process at both the domestic and international levels. Domestically, a rational choice analysis shows how environmental vulnerability and the costs of abatement contribute to defining a state's national interests in environmental politics. But the rational choice model, though useful, has its limits. It often presents the state as a unitary and monolithic actor, whereas in fact states come in multiple institutional forms and are made up of numerous actors with varying and sometimes conflicting interests. Several international factors also play an important role in shaping state preferences. Some of those international factors revolve around how states interact with one another in international negotiations. Indeed, state preferences can be revised during international negotiations via states' interactions in working and contact groups, with negotiating chairs, in coalitions, and through leadership efforts.