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Choosing an Identity

A General Model of Preference and Belief Formation

Sun-Ki Chai

Publication Year: 2001

Social science research is fragmented by the widely differing and seemingly contradictory approaches used by the different disciplines of the social sciences to explain human action. Attempts at integrating different social science approaches to explain action have often been frustrated by the difficulty of incorporating cultural assumptions into rational choice theories without robbing them of their generality or making them too vague for predictions. Another problem has been the major disagreements among cultural theorists regarding the ways in which culture affects preferences and beliefs. This book provides a general model of preference and belief formation, addressing the largest unresolved issue in rational choice theories of action. It attempts to play a bridging role between these approaches by augmenting and modifying the main ideas of the "rational choice" model to make it more compatible with empirical findings in other fields. The resulting model is used to analyze three major unresolved issues in the developing world: the sources of a government's economic ideology, the origins of ethnic group boundaries, and the relationship between modernization and violence. Addressing theoretical problems that cut across numerous disciplines, this work will be of interest to a diversity of theoretically-minded scholars. Sun-Ki Chai is Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of Arizona.

Published by: University of Michigan Press

Title and Copyright Pages

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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

This book provides a general model of preference and belief formation, integrating it with a model of rationality to generate a unified model of preferences, beliefs, and actions. The basic concept behind the model is one that appears under a variety of guises, depending on the social...

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1. The Success and Failure of Rational Choice

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pp. 1-23

The rational choice approach, despite widespread criticism, has reached a point of unrivaled prominence among general theoretical approaches for explaining human action. This prominence extends across the entire range of social sciences. In economics, rational choice...

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2. Alternatives to Conventional Rational Choice: A Survey

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pp. 24-80

This chapter examines a wide range of existing alternatives to the conventional rational choice model. Because of the large number of approaches covered, the reviews are too brief to provide an overall analysis or critique of each. Instead, I attempt to evaluate each approach's potential...

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3. A General Model of Preference and Belief Formation

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pp. 81-128

In this chapter, I present a general model of preference and belief formation. It is complementary to the rational optimization model of decision making, and is integrated with it to form the basis for a revised general model of action. In the model, choice of action is seen as the result of a...

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4. Ideology Formation and Policy Choice in Ex-Colonies

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pp. 129-173

The social science literature is full of works that purport to recommend the correct economic policies for developing countries. However, this wealth of analysis is not matched by theories that attempt to explain the policy choices that Third World states actually make and the reasons...

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5. The Origins of Ethnic Identity and Collective Action

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pp. 174-212

Ethnicity is an issue that long has occupied social scientists in general, but until recently received little attention from rational choice theorists. The reason for this is clear: the causal significance of ethnicity fits very uncomfortably with the conventional assumptions of rational...

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6. Structural Change, Cultural Change, and Civic Violence

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pp. 213-241

Perhaps the single area of social science in which rational choice theories have had the least impact is in explaining long-term social, political and economic change. These topics, which have generally been studied under such theoretical labels as modernization, political...

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7. Conclusion

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pp. 242-255

In concluding, I will try to present ways in which the theory can be augmented and improved as well as justifications for its basic shape and form. As was stated in the beginning of this book, I do not mean to propose that there is a single model which can predict all of human behavior or...


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pp. 257-320


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pp. 321-344

E-ISBN-13: 9780472023950
E-ISBN-10: 0472023950
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472107018
Print-ISBN-10: 0472107011

Page Count: 336
Publication Year: 2001