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Principles of Politics: A Rational Choice Theory Guide to Politics and Social Justice Paperback – October 4, 2012

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 306 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1 edition (October 4, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1107601649
  • ISBN-13: 978-1107601642
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,901,098 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Oppenheimer's book makes big claims about what we know about complex political phenomena, and backs those claims up with rigorous argument. Each chapter unfolds with unique insights in the form of 'propositions' on collective action, social choice, institutional design, and political leadership. This makes the book easily the most cogent and coherent account available of rational choice models and what they have to say about the political world we live in." - Gary Miller, Washington University in St. Louis

"Oppenheimer's Principles of Politics is intellectually incisive, and a practical book for anyone concerned with what government can - or should - do about the common good. Instead of grand apolitical claims about justice divorced from political institutions or amoral empirically precise analyses of political outcomes, Oppenheimer responds to Amartya Sen's calls to skip the trivial objections and begin eliminating intense injustice or unfairness. He overcomes Kenneth Arrow's claims that the common good cannot be agreed upon and John Rawl's assertions about what a just agreement should be. A timely, inspiring clarion call." - Samuel Popkin, University of California, San Diego

"I am often asked 'What is Political Science?' Oppenheimer has given me the broad outline to answer this question. Firmly rooted in the rational choice tradition (with a focus on both positive and normative political theories), this book is a clear and lucid discussion of the central problems tackled by political scientists and a wonderful overview of the state of the discipline's knowledge. The book takes stock of 61 propositions by political scientists, places those propositions in their logical and empirical context, and makes the case for their truth content. Even better, Oppenheimer points to areas that are fruitful for new work. Anyone, from a beginning student in political science to a wizened senior member of the discipline, can benefit from Oppenheimer's insights and conjectures." - Rick K. Wilson, Editor of the American Journal of Political Science, Rice University

Book Description

This book presents the rational choice theories of collective action and social choice, applying them to problems of public policy and social justice. Joe Oppenheimer has crafted a basic survey of, and pedagogic guide to, the findings of public choice theory for political scientists. He describes the problems of collective action, institutional structures, regime change, and political leadership.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

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This book looks at the pros and cons of politics and how we can move toward social participation and justice supported by the vast majority which is taken as a rationale for democratic politics. Oppenheimer has worked hard to follow Mancur Olson's maxim that "The best theories are intensely practical". The book is organized, well written, and compact. I long ago gave up keeping books that I've read; this is one of the rare exceptions that is now setting on my single shelf of books to reference and read again.

Theoreticians will complain because Oppenheimer doesn't go deep enough. Practitioners are likely to complain because he does have some rigorous theory discussion (however, one is not "shut out" of understanding the text because of this). Personally, I find it just about the right mix: the text reads smoothly, cogently, practically, and I can always go to original sources if I feel the interest.

Since the prospective buyer can view the contents of the book above, I won't replicate that detail here. However, to emphasize how well organized the book is: The book opens to six pages of "Propositions and Corollaries" which are denoted by font as empirical or normative and as propositions or corollaries. Each has the associated page where the author supports with discussion and reference to experiments. This allows the reader to trace the linear progression of the entire book, although because the list is presented in the same font as in the main text (small caps; regular, italic, or bold), it is rather difficult to scan. There is also a two page list, with associated page number, of important definitional words. This allows the reader to pre-familiarize with concepts presented in the book.
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