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Rational Lives: Norms and Values in Politics and Societyby Dennis Chong
Synopses & Reviews
Those who study value conflicts have resisted rational choice approaches in the social sciences, contending that political conflict over cultural values is best explained by group loyalties, symbolic motives, and other "nonrational" factors. However, Chong shows that a single model can explain how people make decisions across both social and economic realms. He argues that our preferences result from a combination of psychological dispositions, which are shaped by social influences and developed over the life span.
Chong's book yields insights about the circumstances under which preferences, beliefs, values, norms and group identifications are formed. It offers a provocative explanation of how ingrained social norms and values can change over time despite the forces maintaining the status quo.
"Going beyond the tired polemics on both sides, [Chong] constructs a new interpretation of human behavior in which culture and individual rationality both matter. The synthesis is a more comprehensive and powerful explanatory framework than either side could have produced, and Chong's creativity should influence subsequent interpretations of our social life in fundamental ways."and#8212;Christopher H. Achen, University of Michigan
Book News Annotation:
Presents a study of value formation and change, group identification, and conflict over social norms and lifestyles. Shows that a single model that combines economic and sociological mechanisms can explain how people make decisions across both cultural and economic realms. Analyzes historical and contemporary political conflicts over social norms and yields insight into how people are mobilized around common identities and values to defend their way of life. Chong teaches political science at Northwestern University.
Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Includes bibliographical references (p. 265-282) and index.
Table of Contents
List of FiguresAcknowledgmentsIntroduction1. Interests versus ValuesRational ChoiceStatus PoliticsSymbolic PoliticsDoes Rational Choice Theory Survive the Challenges Posed by the Symbolic Politics Research?Taking Stock of Expressive and Instrumental Theories2. A Model of Individual ChoiceDispositions and IncentivesReference Groups and ConformityGroup DynamicsA Model of Individual ChoiceIncentives: The Meaning of PiReinforcing Only LReinforcing Only RDispositions: The Meaning of a and bExposure to Both L and RDeductions: The Interplay between Incentives and DispositionsConclusion3. Coordination and ConflictFour Mechanisms of DefenseCoordination ProblemsEthnocentrismVested InterestsMajorities and MinoritiesConclusion4. Cultural MobilizationCreating Common Frames of ReferenceDeductionsGeneral StrategiesThe Element of SurpriseConvergence on a Focal PointArguing with PrinciplesConclusion5. Economics Meets Morality in a Texas CommunityBackgroundSetting the AgendaFraming Strategies following the First VoteCompleting WorldviewsThe Role of Social and Moral Beliefs in Solving Coordination ProblemsMorality, Trust, and Social OrderPolitical Repercussions of Cultural DiversityEvaluating Information and Reasoning about Means and EndsAre the Citizens of Williamson County Acting in Their Self-Interest?Conclusion6. Mass Adjustment to New NormsIncentives and Dispositions (Reprised)Social Adjustment to New Norms and PracticesA Model of Social AdjustmentMechanisms of Social ChangeHow the South Was WonConclusion7. Culture and StrategyA Unifying TheoryValue FormationSocial ChangeThe Limits of RationalityExpressive and Moral ActionA Final WordNotesBibliographyIndex
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