The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

Living Edition
| Editors: Palgrave Macmillan

Rational Choice and Political Science

  • Susanne Lohmann
Living reference work entry


‘Rational choice in political science’ stands for the application of the economics approach in the study of political phenomena. The research program is to rationalize collective behaviour that comes across as stupid or counterproductive. In its highbrow (esoteric) variant, rational choice is on the way out in political science. In its low-brow (sensible) variant, rational choice is here to stay, not as the dominant approach, but as one of three equal, and complementary, approaches: the rationalist approach, which focuses on individual agency; the culturalist approach, which centres on collective identities; and the structuralist approach, which emphasizes historical institutionalism.


Arrow, K. J. Asymmetric information Behavioural economics Buchanan, James Tullock, Gordon Olson, Mancur Hayek, F. A. Aristotle Hobbes, T. Coase Theorem Collective action Complex systems approach in social science Complexity Congressional committees Culturalist approach in political science Historical institutionalism Collective identities Individual agency Institutionalism Agency Public choice Externalities Government intervention Politics of monetary policy Logic of Collective Action Supply of and demand for collective action Greed, rationality, and equilibrium Keynesian approach Hayekian approach Developing countries Social complexity Post-autistic economics movement Political science Deadweight loss Development economics Experimental Economics Free-rider problem Game theory Government failure Independence of irrelevant alternatives Market failure Political economy Positive political theory Preference aggregation Rational choice Rational choice in political science Representative agent Self-interest Social choice Social welfare function Special interests Structuralist approach in political science 

JEL Classifications

D01 Z13 D7 
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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Susanne Lohmann
    • 1
  1. 1.