• 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

Party Competition
Party competition

In previous chapters we painted a picture of politics that shows political parties as alliances of entrepreneurs, competing for the right to supply political services to the public at large. Public demand for these services arises from private desires for things that would otherwise be beset by collective action problems. Rational members of the public motivated by these desires support the politician or political party they judge most likely to maximize their economic well-being. It is almost certain that different people desire different things. In particular, once there is inequality in levels of well-being of members of the public, different people will instrumentally place different values on different packages of political services, some of which, for example, are likely to help poorer ...

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