• Summary
  • Contents
  • Subject index

Private Desires, Political Action is an accessible overview of one of the most important approaches to the study of politics in the modern world - rational choice theory. Michael Laver does not set out to review this entire field, but rather to discuss how we might use rational choice theory to analyze the political competition that affects almost every aspect of our lives. The broad-ranging scope of the book introduces the theory at many levels of analysis, including: the private desires of individuals; the social context of how people fulfil their desires; and the problems of collective action. The discussion of these problems extends into the arena of politics, where the activities of `political entrepreneurs' or

Rational Actors
Rational actors

We begin with two fundamental categories: people, and the objects of their desires. All people are not considered equal; neither are some considered more equal than others. ‘Objects of desire’ are what motivate people to act in particular ways.

We start the argument by considering each person as an individual and ignoring his or her potential interactions with other people. We assume, furthermore, that each person is intrinsically motivated by ‘private’ desires that do not include desires about how other people ought to interact with each other. When interacting with others people will almost certainly develop ‘social’ desires for things such as power, prestige, reputation and glory, which make sense only when applied to social interactions, and have no meaning in relation to ...

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