• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Can Rational Choice Theory Be Reconciled With The Concept Of Political Culture?

Extracts from this document...


Can Rational Choice Theory Be Reconciled With The Concept Of Political Culture? At first glance, it appears that reconciling the rational choice approach of political sociology to the structural concept of political culture is a futile one. Rational choice draws heavily upon economic theory in building models based upon procedural rules that emphasise the maximisation of utility, a consistent and logical decision making process that focuses on identifying the course of action of greatest value. This process takes place entirely on an individual level, and assumes that everyone will consistently act in such a self-interested way. By contrast, the concept of a political culture fundamentally relies on group behaviour, finding correlations between the positive psychological orientation and the actions of a country's citizens with a country's economic performance and viability of its democratic institutions. Thus, if a country's citizens are civically engaged, and playing (or believe that they canplay) an active role in their country's political processes (a state of affairs which Almond and Verba (1963) terms a 'participant' political culture) then a country is far more likely to be prosperous and democratic. It follows that civically engaged citizens should largely act with their country's interests in mind. While this does not necessarily conflict with a person's own interests,- and in fact, the two may go hand in hand- it is inevitable that there are times one must place other values above one's own self interest. ...read more.


. . to allow interpersonal variation may generate insuperable problems of tractability" (17). Yet justifying this on grounds of theoretical parsimony, it is plainly illogical to assume that decisions, rules and tastes remain constant. In fact, given the vast capacity of human beings for change, the opposite is more accurate. The implications in such a case are enormous. The creation of a political culture is predicated on the diffusion of values that emphasise civic responsibility and participation. While a slow process, it nevertheless relies on the conversion of people to potentially altruistic ideals, thus making their behaviour logically consistent with rational choice theory. Taking the argument further, if an individual can change from being self-interested, the reverse can happen as well. If self-interest can be acquired, it may very well be an entirely socially constructed trait. In this light, it is impossible to say that acting in self-interest is the default rational choice. It is equally likely that acting in an innate rational manner may entail altruism, patriotism and civic participation. One common argument against civic behaviour is the free-rider problem, which occurs when a good, whether economic, political or social, is produced regardless of whether one contributes to its provision or not. In The Logic of Collective Action, Olson argues that "only a separate and 'selective' incentive will stimulate a rational individual in a latent group to act in a group-oriented way," (51) ...read more.


Almond and Verba elaborate, "because politics has little importance for them, few citizens are motivated to think about their influence or their political activities." For most people, the demands of daily life will mean that little time is left to actively participating in the political process. In conclusion, it is safe to say that there is no essential conflict between rational choice and political culture. While there is an apparent conflict, one finds that they arise because of the underlying assumption of rational choice, or of the need for rational choice to simplify in order to produce useful models of coherent behaviour from which to work with. Removed from the theoretical and brought out into the living, breathing world that political culture seeks to capture, one finds that the roadblocks that arise in preventing the two concepts to fit together harmoniously are removed and that they actually conform to each other. As Almond and Verba write, "The democratic citizen is expected to be active in politics and to be involved. Furthermore, he is supposed to be rational in his approach to politics, guided by reason, not emotion. He is supposed to be well-informed and to make decisions- for instance, his decision on how to vote- on the basis of careful calculation as to the interests and the principles he would like to see furthered" (1963, 29). Where a political culture of active participation in politics and civic engagement exists, the citizen's rational choice is to fully participate. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Political Philosophy section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Political Philosophy essays

  1. A Study of Carl Rogers' Theory of Personality

    up the logical requirement of precision regarding what the potentialities might be (Maddi, 1996). The inherent potentialities of the actualizing tendency can suffer distorted expression when maladjustment occurs, resulting in behavior destructive to oneself and others. The actualization and self-actualization tendencies can be at cross purposes with each other when

  2. Power and Politics in Organizations: Public and Private Sector Comparisons

    from those in the past, not just in technology, product lines, and personnel but above all in the great diversity of markets and cultures in which they now operate. The less homogeneous the international firm becomes, the more difficult it will be to mask the fact that corporate life, like

  1. Nigeria Country Study

    * Presidents of Nigeria (1999-Present) * General Olusegun Obasanjo (29 May 1999 - 29 May 2007) * Umaru Yar'Adua (29 May 2007 - Present) * Significant Historical Events * 1472 - Portuguese navigators reach Nigerian coast. * 16-18th centuries - Slave trade: Millions of Nigerians are forcibly sent to Europe and the Americas.

  2. Describe Jean Baudrillard's concept of the orders of simulacra in relation to design in ...

    The tea pot, designed by Michael Graves in 1985 for Alessi, brings the symbol to its conclusion. The tea pot employs a plastic emblem of a bird that is attached to the spout of the kettle and creates a whistling noise when the water is boiled.

  1. How have political sociologist understood globalization? Globalization is perhaps the central concept of ...

    This more complex formulation clearly implies that cultural identity is not likely to be the easy prey of globalization. This is because identity is not in fact merely some delicate communal-psychic attachment, but a considerable dimension of institutionalized social life in modernity.

  2. Is political theory useful?

    It is the basic and one of the most necessary tools to learn politics as a science. As a result of Locke's work on Two Treatises of Government, the basic concept of the modern day democracy has been laid down; Hobbes's work on Leviathan, the autocracy was justified; Marx's works gave the world the idea of communism, and social equality.

  1. Marxism - political theory

    Marx's critiques of the capitalist system - its tendency towards crises, the necessity of inequality - are still relevant today. The Dialectic Marx's powerful critique has as it basis a unique approach to reality - the dialectic. Taking from G.W.F.

  2. The study of international or rather global politics, seeks to provide an account of ...

    the ways by which political power may be called to account" (Hinsley 1986:25). 3. The concept of sovereignty (a) Definitional aspects Many authors offer comment on the definitional aspects of sovereignty. Some of the statements which are most useful to this discussion are: * Hinsley (1986: 26): "the idea of

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work