chapter  12
28 Pages

Why Self-interest Means Less Outside of a Social Context: Cultural Contributions to a Theory of Rational Choices

ByAaron Wildavsky, Charles Lockhart, Richard M. Coughlin

This chapter begin with postulates of rational choice, including interests, continue with the cultural construction of selves, institutions and interests, and go on to compare rational choice with cultural explanations. The self-interest assumption facilitates use of the maximization postulate. Each culture constructs a characteristic view not only of human and physical but also of institutional nature. Just as hierarchists have a bifurcated view of physical nature, so individualists have a bifurcated view of institutional nature, wonderful if they are competitive with few rules, terrible if they restrict competition with many regulations. Hierarchists believe that human beings are born bad and can be made better only by innumerable institutional constraints which, it so happens, they are only too glad to supply. For hierarchists to say that human beings are corrupted by institutions would be to give away the game of life before it had begun.