a1 Georgia State University
Anomalies and problems internal to the basic “thin” version of rational choice theory, together with the absence of persuasive endogenous resolutions, have led many rationalist analysts to “thicken” thin rationality by incorporating norms and ideas into their analyses. This essay analyzes the sources, manifestations, and limitations of this ideational turn in rational choice theory. It delineates and critiques four rationalist incorporations of norms and three rationalist incorporations of ideas. Yet all of these thick-rational analyses do not adequately explain the “brute fact” that largely enables norms and ideas to affect the behavior of actors. Recently, however, some rationalist analysts have advanced an alternative approach that incorporates cultural and communicative factors into rationalist analysis. This “interpretive rationality” (or a related “cognitive rationality”) merits further investigation because it directly analyzes the “brute fact” in ways that “thick rationality” cannot.
(Accepted April 03 1996)
(Received September 23 1996)
Albert S. Yee is assistant professor of political science at Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA 30303–3083.