chapter  13
22 Pages

Can Norms Rescue Self-Interest or Macro Explanation be Joined to Micro Explanation?

ByAaron Wildavsky, Charles Lockhart, Richard M. Coughlin

The separation between the micro and the macro levels of explanation is artificial. If the individual is viewed as a social creature, influenced by as well as influencing existing patterns of social relations, then the relationship between the individual and the social is reciprocal, the pattern being constructed by while influencing the individuals whose behavior constitute its relationships. From Jon Elster's methodologically individualistic perspective, the state of nature makes sense because it portrays individuals as self-interested. If everyone had the same values and objectives and desire to live the same way, norms would lose their point in bolstering behavioral patterns so as to support one culture over others. Adherents of the passive cultures reject cooperation as undesirable in principle; for if nature is a random walk and people are unpredictable, as fatalists believe, working with others is likely to prove harmful.