Overview of the Rational/Utilitarian Tradition


    Actors                                           Processes                                       Problems         



a)      Equal exchanges (Homans and group formation)

b)      Unequal exchanges (men/women, students/teachers, etc)

Cooperation – under what circumstances will rational actors cooperate with one another?  When will they refuse cooperation?

Collective actors – corporations, organizations, states, etc.

Decision making

a)      Maximizing

b)      satisficing

The problem of collective interests (or, who guards the guardians).



Unintended consequences – rational choices of individual actors can have unintended consequences…

1)      education and grade inflation

2)      illegal goods – perverse incentives of law enforcement



The problem of externalities – rational actors can impose the costs of their choices on to others:

1)      corporations that pollute

2)      politicians, voters and budget deficits

3)      parents and children



Social policy – how to manipulate the incentive structures within which actors operate.