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RATIONAL CHOICE AND POLITICAL POWER

Keith M. Dowding, Australia National University
This illuminating title applies rational choice theory to the power debate, demonstrating the fallacious arguments of all sides. Power is analysed as a bargaining game where the power of actors is assessed in terms of the resources to which they have access. By distinguishing luck from power it shows that many groups widely regarded as powerful are merely lucky, albeit as a result of systematic features of society.
Extent: 208 pp
Hardback Price: $145.00 Web: $130.50
Publication Date: 1991
ISBN: 978 1 85278 335 8
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  • Economics and Finance
  • Public Choice Theory
  • Politics and Public Policy
  • International Relations
  • Public Choice
This illuminating title applies rational choice theory to the power debate, demonstrating the fallacious arguments of all sides. Power is analysed as a bargaining game where the power of actors is assessed in terms of the resources to which they have access. By distinguishing luck from power it shows that many groups widely regarded as powerful are merely lucky, albeit as a result of systematic features of society.

This is one of the first conceptual books on power directly to engage both classical and modern empirical debates on the power structure at both the local and national level.
‘This engaging book breathes new life into the rather sterile debate about power through the use of the tools of rational choice theory. In a refreshing shift of emphasis, Keith Dowding also challenges the standard antagonistic relationship between rational choice and structuralism by indicating how rationality can lie at the heart of structural theory. . . . a very interesting and important contribution to current debates both about power and the uses of rational choice theory.’
– Mark Wickham-Jones, Political Studies

‘There have been many books about power, but nobody before Keith Dowding has understood as he does the significance of rational choice theory for the central issues in the academic debates about power. Deploying the basic ideas of rational choice theory, with special attention to the problem of collective action, Dowding illuminates the philosophic literature on the definition of power and offers a trenchant critical analysis of the best empirical studies of power. Nobody with an interest in social power can fail to be instructed by Dowding's book.’
– Brian Barry, London School of Economics and Political Science, UK

‘. . . this is a welcome book which sheds light on some of the hitherto murkier aspects of the literature on power.’
– Peter Morriss, Utilitas
Contents: 1. Introduction 2. Rational Choice and a Theory of Action 3. Preferences and Objective Interests 4. Political Power and Bargaining Theory 5. Collective Action and Dimensions of Power 6. State Power Structures 7. Preference Formation, Social Location and Ideology 8. Conclusions