A Critique on Rational Choice Theory: Limitations on Explanations of Social Phenomenon


  • Chakkri Chaipinit A Lecturer of Department of Political Science, Faculty of Political Science and Law, Burapha University


Rational Choice Theory, Positivism, Game Theory, Jon Elster


Rational Choice Theory has been theoretically beneficial on explaining a social phenomenon, particularly in unveiling logic behind preferences of agency. In practically, Rational Choice Theory, nevertheless, has some critical limitations; those are, level of analysis narrowly focusing on methodological individualism, formalization of theory itself containing excessive conditions, problem on normative concern based solely on pre-given interests, lack of empirical data for testing theory, and abandonment on agency’s identity probably prevailing pre-given interests. These limitations have raised some questions on applying Rational Choice Theory to effectively explain a complex social phenomenon. Because of this, those theories influenced by Rational Choice Theory: such as, Robert Koehane’s Neoliberal Institutionalism; Deterrence Theory in Criminology, and Vincent Ostrom and Elinor Ostrom’s Public Choice Theory, would definitely embark on analogous limitations.


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