Rational Choice Sociology


Rational Choice Sociology

Essays on Theory, Collective Action and Social Order

9781789903249 Edward Elgar Publishing
Michael Hechter, Foundation Professor, School of Politics and Global Studies, Arizona State University and Emeritus Professor of Sociology, University of Washington, US
Publication Date: 2019 ISBN: 978 1 78990 324 9 Extent: 384 pp
Rational Choice Sociology shows that despite the scepticism of many sociologists, rational choice theory indeed can account for a variety of non-market outcomes, including those concerning social norms, family dynamics, crime, rebellion, state formation and social order.

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Whereas rational choice theory has enjoyed considerable success in economics and political science, due to its emphasis on individual behavior sociologists have long doubted its capacity to account for non-market social outcomes. Whereas they have conceded that rational choice theory may be an appropriate tool to understand strictly economic phenomena – that is, the kinds of social interactions that occur in the gesellschaft – many sociologists have contended that the theory is wholly unsuitable for the analysis of the kinds of social interactions in the gemeinschaft – such as those occurring in families, in social groups of all kinds, and in society at large. In a variety of non-technical chapters, Rational Choice Sociology shows that a sociological version of rational choice theory indeed can make valuable contributions to the analysis of a wide variety of non-market outcomes, including those concerning social norms, family dynamics, crime, rebellion, state formation and social order.
Critical Acclaim
‘Throughout his long career, Michael Hechter has been one of the discipline’s most creative and exacting theorists. This volume pulls together some of his most important publications, showing an extraordinary range of contributions to a variety of substantive problems – from the foundations of social order, to the formation of group solidarity, civil war, rebellion, state structures, and the foundations of class versus identity politics.’
– Andrew G. Walder, Stanford University, US

‘This is one of the finest collections of papers in sociological theory. ‘Michael Hechters work on sociological rational choice theory captivates with its creative application to a multitude of different topics among them the key questions of solidarity, social change, and social order. Hechter shows that sociological rational choice theory is much more than a utility maximization device. By adding “value” to rational choice he elegantly comes to innovative and often surprising explanations of social phenomena. Dealing with the work of this most eminent theorist is a must for any scholar interested in sociological theory and its applications.’
– Andreas Diekmann, ETH Zurich, Switzerland and University of Leipzig, Germany

‘Michael Hechter has pioneered the application of rational choice theory to sociology. The range of his contributions – and the extent to which he has refined the theory – is well represented in this collection of seminal essays on key sociological topics, such as demography, nationalism, historical sociology, collective action, state formation and social norms. If the discipline has now acquired firm analytical foundations, it is to a great extent thanks to Hechter’s scholarship. No student of sociology can afford to ignore such an extraordinary body of work.’  
– Federico Varese, University of Oxford, UK

‘Michael Hechter is one of the major proponents of rational actor theory in the social sciences. The book is a useful collection of some of the major articles that cover important issues that are of general interest – in particular collective action and social order. The book shows the wide range of application of the theory and, hopefully, will contribute to further increase its recognition as an important tool to explain social phenomena.’
– Karl-Dieter Opp, University of Leipzig, Germany and University of Washington, US

‘An early pioneer of sociological rational choice, Michael Hechter has made seminal contributions to rational choice theory over a career spanning nearly 50 years. This book brings those contributions together in a single volume. Although the chapters address a range of substantive topics – fertility decisions, the value of children, collective action, the genesis of mutiny, and state formation – at its core is a deep concern with a fundamental question for social science: How is social order, solidarity, and control possible in human societies? This book provides a compelling answer from a rational choice perspective.’
– Ross L. Matsueda, University of Washington, US


Introduction Michael Hechter

1 Michael Hechter and Satoshi Kanazawa (1997), ‘Sociological Rational Choice
Theory’, Annual Review of Sociology , 23 , 191–214 2
2 Debra Friedman, Michael Hechter and Satoshi Kanazawa (1994), ‘A Theory of
the Value of Children’, Demography , 31 (3), August, 375–401 26
3 Debra Friedman, Michael Hechter and Derek Kreager (2008), ‘A Theory of the
Value of Grandchildren’, Rationality and Society , 20 (1), February, 31–63 53

4 Michael Hechter (1978), ‘Group Formation and the Cultural Division of Labor’,
American Journal of Sociology , 84 (2), September, 293–318 87
5 David Siroky and Michael Hechter (2016), ‘Ethnicity, Class, and Civil War: The
Role of Hierarchy, Segmentation, and Cross-cutting Cleavages’, Civil Wars , 18
(1), January, 1–17 113
6 Michael Hechter (2004), ‘From Class to Culture’, American Journal of Sociology ,
110 (2), September, 400–445 130
7 Michael Hechter, Steven Pfaff and Patrick Underwood (2016), ‘Grievances and
the Genesis of Rebellion: Mutiny in the Royal Navy, 1740 to 1820’, American
Sociological Review , 81 (1), February, 165–89 176
8 Steven Pfaff, Michael Hechter and Katie E. Corcoran (2016), ‘The Problem of
Solidarity in Insurgent Collective Action: The Nore Mutiny of 1797’, Social
Science History , 40 (2), Summer, 247–70 201

9 Michael Hechter and William Brustein (1980), ‘Regional Modes of Production
and Patterns of State Formation in Western Europe’, American Journal of
Sociology , 85 (5), March, 1061–94 226
10 Michael Hechter and Satoshi Kanazawa (1993), ‘Group Solidarity and Social
Order in Japan’, Journal of Theoretical Politics , 5 (4), October, 455–93 260
11 Sun-Ki Chai and Michael Hechter (1998), ‘A Theory of the State and of Social
Order’, Homo Oeconomicus , XV (1), 1–26 299
12 Michael Hechter (2018), ‘Norms in the Evolution of Social Order’, Social
Research: An International Quarterly , 85 (1), Spring, 23–51 325


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