chapter  14
18 Pages

Culture, Rationality, and Political Violence

Withwith Sun-Ki Chai

This chapter addresses shortcomings in rational choice and nonrational choice explanations of political violence, concentrating in particular on the inability of existing theories to explain why antistate collective violence should occur at all. It presents a rational choice interpretation of cultural theory, and shows how its basic assumptions can be incorporated directly into assumptions about individual preferences and beliefs. Although culture and rationality have long been seen as opposing explanations for political phenomena, cultural variables are particularly important for providing coherent rational choice explanations of many types of political behavior, including violent collective action. When in power, individualists will in most cases be hesitant to use violent coercion against members of the population, since this will interfere with the competitive market mechanism. Hierarchs in power, generally aim violence against those they view as "deviants," that is, those who are not willing to accept and perform according to their designated roles.