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Rationalizing Capitalist Democracy: The Cold War Origins of Rational Choice Liberalism Paperback

ISBN-13: 978-0226016542 ISBN-10: 0226016544

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 408 pages
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press (October 15, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226016544
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226016542
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,089,960 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"A most interesting examination of the evolution of rational choice theory within economics, political science, and philosophy, and she describes as well how its emergence fits into the intellectual politics of the cold war era. The depth of reading and analysis is most impressive . . . Rationalizing Capitalist Democracy is an excellent work of research and a useful, engaging presentation of ideas. It will repay reading by all economists, historians, and political scientists interested in the development of ideology."
(Stanley L. Engerman Business History Review)

"This book should be widely consulted by anyone working in the field of social policy today. This is an engaging and important book ."
(James Midgley Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare)

2004 J. David Greenstone Prize
American Political Science Association
(American Political Science Association)

"The difficult texts in the canon of rational choice theory are discussed with clarity and insight. For those who want to know this intellectual history, this is the book to read. . . . That rational choice provided a foundation for some Cold War liberals is important and worth understanding. This book provides the means for such understanding."
(Michael Coulter Journal of Markets and Morality)

“[Amadae] explains how the RAND Corporation's systems analysis and rational policy analysis became normative standards in governmental decision making. There are arresting insights into the whole ensemble of defense establishment leaders and institutions. . . . This is . . . a sophisticated, substantive, and balanced interpretation. Readers will come away from this book with a nuanced and enhanced understanding of many vital and enduring themes in contemporary political thought. This is an exemplary study in modern intellectual history. It is well positioned to reconfigure the contours of the rational choice theory landscape and its legacy.”

(Frank Annunziata Journal of American History)

“Rational choice liberalism has become an influential part of contemporary political philosophy. Amadae brilliantly identifies the historical roots and philosophical structure of this fundamental reworking of classical liberalism and critically assesses its pivotal role in the Cold War battle versus communism.”<\#209>Robert Bellah, University of California, Berkeley
(Robert Bellah, University of California, Berkeley)

“Truly excellent, S. M. Amadae’s <I>Rationalizing Capitalist Democracy<I> convincingly shows how heavily the modern rise of rational choice perspectives has been shaped by the incubating role of RAND in particular and, even more fundamentally, by the Cold War context. Along the way, Amadae provides fascinating insights into the work and careers of key figures like Kenneth Arrow, Duncan Black, James Buchanan, William Riker, and John Rawls. This book makes a substantial and original contribution to modern intellectual history.”<\#209>Rogers Smith, University of Pennsylvania
(Rogers Smith, University of Pennsylvania)

“Superb. <I>Rationalizing Capitalist Democracy<I> is unique in its grand program and its coverage. It will be widely read by both advocates and opponents of rational choice theory. Every rational choice theorist will learn from it. Some will reinterpret what they thought they knew of parts of the theory; all will gain perspective on the massive enterprise.”<\#209>Russell Hardin, Stanford University and New York University
(Russell Hardin, Stanford University and New York University)

“That which emerges from separately pursued paths of scientific inquiry often has a coherence that only an external observer can discern. As a protagonist in this book’s story line, I welcome Amadae’s integration of public choice ideas into the more comprehensive vision that was never a part of my intent.”<\#209>James Buchanan, 1986 Nobel Laureate in Economics

(James Buchanan, 1986 Nobel Laureate in Economics)

From the Inside Flap

In Rationalizing Capitalist Democracy, S. M. Amadae tells the remarkable story of how rational choice theory rose from obscurity to become the intellectual bulwark of capitalist democracy. Amadae roots Rationalizing Capitalist Democracy in the turbulent post-World War II era, showing how rational choice theory grew out of the RAND Corporation's efforts to develop a "science" of military and policy decisionmaking. But while the first generation of rational choice theorists--William Riker, Kenneth Arrow, and James Buchanan--were committed to constructing a "scientific" approach to social science research, they were also deeply committed to defending American democracy from its Marxist critics. Amadae reveals not only how the ideological battles of the Cold War shaped their ideas but also how those ideas may today be undermining the very notion of individual liberty they were created to defend.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Herbert Gintis on December 13, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was induced to purchase and read this book, despite its absurd title, by the sterling endorsements it has received. Here is a sample: "Amadae brilliantly identifies the historical roots and philosophical structure of this fundamental reworking of classical liberalism and critically assesses its pivotal role in the Cold War battle." (Robert Bellah); "Superb. (Russell Hardin); "I welcome Amadae's integration of public choice ideas" (James Buchanan).

In fact, this book is a complete disappointment, a futile exercise in "guilt by association" with no substantive structural or causative support. The basic argument is that rational choice theory emerged at the same time as the Cold War, many rational choice theorists were committed liberal democrats who worked for the Rand Corporation to combat Communism and improve public sector decision-making, rational choice theory is a strong support for liberal democracy and a powerful critique of Marxism, from which it follows that the intellectual roots of rational choice theory lie in the Cold War and the effort to defeat Communism. This sort of shoddy reasoning is called "post hoc propter hoc," or more prosaically, "coincidental correlation." This type of reasoning is common among post-modernists, the archetypes of modern sloppy thinking, but I never encountered this bizarre form of reasoning in a work that applauds rather than critiques the blatant exploitation of science for political ends. Here are some examples of Amadae's bizarre statements.

"Kenneth Arrow created his impossibility theorem while firmly ensconced within the context of America's Cold War with the Soviet Union...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By D. J. Wear on January 17, 2010
Format: Paperback
Amadae has written a scholarly book that is inviting, informative, and thoroughly researched. Prof. Amadae has a broad command of this subject matter. If you are interested in the history of 20th-century political economy, this is a must-read. Highly recommended.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Michael Emmett Brady on December 20, 2009
Format: Paperback
The author apparently forgot what he had written on pp.258-265 and 290-292 of his own book.His analysis on these pages correctly demonstrates that it was Jeremy Bentham who was the founder of rational choice theory.However, Bentham's approach was never obscure or fell from grace.Bentham's utility maximization approach was the core of neoclassical economics from 1870 to the present.Bentham was the first to argue that all decision makers can calculate the odds of the set of different,possible alternative courses of action and pick out the best probable one .Bentham's main students,J B Say,David Ricardo,James Mill,and Nassau Senior,all based their work on Bentham's 1787 work that directly challenged the virtue ethics approach of Adam Smith.The author's belief, that rational choice theory was rescued from oblivion by researchers working at the Rand Corporation starting in the 1940's, overlooks D Ellsberg's early 1960's work ,carried out at Rand ,that recognized,like Keynes had some 50 years before,that the rational choice approach is a special theory.

Bentham's approach was reinterpreted and updated technically ,using more advanced mathematics, by Frank P Ramsey,Bruno De Finetti,and J L Savage.A von Neumann -Morgenstern utility function was later incorporated.The end result was the Subjective Expected Utility (SEU) approach ,based on linearity and additivity.The author could have provided an effective critique of SEU had he been aware that J M Keynes had already demonstrated ,in both his A Treatise on Probability in 1921 and his 1909 Cambridge Fellowship Thesis of 1909,that the general case was one of non additivity and non linearity.SEU is a special case only.SEU can't deal with non-additivity or non linearity.It can never be anything more than a special theory at best.
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