Rational Choice Theory -Reply -Reply

Chris Burford cburford at gn.apc.org
Sat Apr 8 09:18:36 MDT 1995

Hello again Lisa,

On 6th April you wrote to Fellini,

"It is my use of the concept of individuals seeking
self-interest, in my definition, that I claim to be a useful
assumption in my work.  I do not claim it to be an explanation,
my explanations don't look like that."

I may be jumping in on this, because I have been a bit out of
touch with problems at work and a temporary computer. Also I have
only just discovered that the reason why I could not send any
mail, was not because my email programme objected to DOS6
compression, but because when my programme told me to enter 'u'
to upload a file, I should not have been pressing "Page Up", but
I should in fact have been pressing 'u'!

With my refound freedom, can I see if we can take your argument
one step further? Having agreed with you on virtually everything
on Hans Ehrbar's Capital class, I could not quite understand why you had
possibly a reductionist position about individual self-interest, and I
did not really understand why we seemed to disagree on this.

I would suggest that the paradox deep within the universe is that
individuals, or individual atoms if you will, jostle together -
and can be analysed at the level of their individual jostling -
but in the course of the jostling they form patterns - which can
be analysed as patterns.

Your social and anthropological analysis seems to me so coherent
(of course your particular conclusions might be debated
by others but the analysis hangs together coherently) that I feel
sure you fully accept this level of generality. Is the problem
that in your speciality you feel some anthropologists so misuse
analysis at the general level that you want to anchor yourself
theoretically in a concept of the individual?


Chris Burford

PS I am also assuming that you are saying something different
from "the individualist ideology of capitalist society ... can
.. be found in ancient society, or even in primitive society, and
will exist for ever unchanged" (Mao criticising "metaphysical"
thinking in his 1937 essay "On Contradiction).

PPS I apologise for possibly now embroiling you also in a tangle
with Ralph, but a) I think Mao's point is worth considering and
b) and I can't resist teasing Ralph by daring to quote Mao on
this list.

Anyway I am sure you will take your own decisions if you want to
keep out of anything that might arise on that front! I look
forward to hearing your own thoughts. Regards again. Chris.

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