rational choice theory?

fellini at keynes.econ.utah.edu fellini at keynes.econ.utah.edu
Mon Apr 3 13:57:47 MDT 1995

Just a quick observation about Justin's argument. He wrote:

>  Once this is understood, if it is agreeable, then we see that even
>  if there is a directionality to history, towards socialism or
>  whatever, that does not settle the question whether history is
>  progressive. Here, though, is an argument that history _is_
>  progressive and directional. If domination means that some groups
>  have more power than others to promote their own interests at the
>  expense of others, and people tend to act on
>  their own group interests in the long run, then over time
>  domination will  be opposed by groups whose interests are trampled.
>  There is no guarantee that any given group will have the power to
>  oppose its own domination successfully, but if domination is ever
>  effectively resisted, the advantages won by successful resistance
>  will come be regarded as rights and will be given up only with great
>  difficulty. In the very long run, success will build on success and
>  domination will be progressively restricted and limited in kind and
>  degree. Reversions are possible, but resistance to domination based
>  on group interest provides a mechanism for long run historical
>  progressive change.

If I understand Justin's point correctly, he simply repeats Eric Olin
Wright's (or others' like Elster) argument in, for example:

Erik Olin Wright, "Giddens's Critique of Marxism," _New Left Review_,
No. 138 (March-April 1983), pp. 5-35. (for a revised version of it:
"Models of Historical Trajectory: an Assessment of Giddens's Critique of
Marxism," _Social Theory of Modern Societies: Anthony Giddens and his
Critics_, David Held and John B. Thompson, Cambridge UP, 1989, pp. 77-102).

This is a powerful argument (provided that 'progress' always requires a
'vantage point' from which some change is assessed), but what I don't
like in it is that it is based on Rational Choice Theory (RCT), albeit
an aggregated version of it. And I believe RCT has nothing to do with
Marxism; we should get rid of it.



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