Rational Lives Norms and Values in Politics and Society
by Dennis Chong
University of Chicago Press, 2000
Cloth: 978-0-226-10438-6 | Paper: 978-0-226-10439-3 | Electronic: 978-0-226-10437-9
ABOUT THIS BOOKTABLE OF CONTENTS

ABOUT THIS BOOK

Those who study value conflicts have resisted rational choice approaches in the social sciences, contending that political conflict over cultural values is best explained by group loyalties, symbolic motives, and other "nonrational" factors. However, Chong shows that a single model can explain how people make decisions across both social and economic realms. He argues that our preferences result from a combination of psychological dispositions, which are shaped by social influences and developed over the life span.

Chong's book yields insights about the circumstances under which preferences, beliefs, values, norms and group identifications are formed. It offers a provocative explanation of how ingrained social norms and values can change over time despite the forces maintaining the status quo.

"Going beyond the tired polemics on both sides, [Chong] constructs a new interpretation of human behavior in which culture and individual rationality both matter. The synthesis is a more comprehensive and powerful explanatory framework than either side could have produced, and Chong's creativity should influence subsequent interpretations of our social life in fundamental ways."—Christopher H. Achen, University of Michigan

TABLE OF CONTENTS

List of Figures

Acknowledgments

Introduction

1. Interests versus Values

Rational Choice

Status Politics

Symbolic Politics

Does Rational Choice Theory Survive the Challenges Posed by the Symbolic Politics Research?

Taking Stock of Expressive and Instrumental Theories

2. A Model of Individual Choice

Reference Groups and Conformity

Group Dynamics

A Model of Individual Choice

Incentives: The Meaning of π

Reinforcing Only R

Dispositions: The Meaning of a and b

Exposure to Both L and R

Deductions: The Interplay between Incentives and Dispositions

Conclusion

Four Mechanisms of Defense

Coordination Problems

Ethnocentrism

Vested Interests

Majorities and Minorities

Conclusion

4. Cultural Mobilization

Creating Common Frames of Reference

Deductions

General Strategies

The Element of Surprise

Convergence on a Focal Point

Arguing with Principles

5. Economics Meets Morality in a Texas Community

Background

Setting the Agenda

Framing Strategies following the First Vote

Competing Worldviews

The Role of Social and Moral Beliefs in Solving Coordination Problems

Morality, Trust, and Social Order

Political Repercussions of Cultural Diversity

Evaluating Information and Reasoning about Means and Ends

Are the Citizens of Williamson County Acting in Their Self-interest?

Conclusion

6. Mass Adjustment to New Norms

Incentives and Dispositions (Reprised)

Social Adjustment to New Norms and Practices

A Model of Social Adjustment

Mechanisms of Social Change

How the South Was Won

Conclusion

7. Culture and Strategy

A Unifying Theory

Value Formation

Social Change

The Limits of Rationality

Expressive and Moral Action

A Final Word

Notes

Biblography

Index