• 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


The substantive argument in this book concerns the political implications of people' private desires for things that are consumed and/or produced collectively. If these things are not provided by secular saints or philosopher-kings, then they will have to be provided by some other means if people' private desires are to be satisfied. Indeed we saw early on that at least one such public good, a ‘legal system’ that facilitates the making of binding agreements, is essential for the consummation of many of even the most private transactions.

A concentration on such problems, therefore, does not in itself presuppose an overriding concern with the intrinsic merits of collective as opposed to private consumption goods. It simply recognizes the inevitable collective implications of even ‘private’ consumption of ...

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