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Ivan Ermakoff
On the Frontiers of Rational Choice

 

 
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Taking stock of the critiques leveled at the standard model of rational choice, the responses that these critiques elicited, and the empirical work deployed in the wake of these controversies, this essay sets forth three claims. The first conceptualizes rational choice as a mode of action identifiable in terms of specific subjective orientations. The second claim argues that we cannot appraise rational choice's ability to sustain fire in the face of systematic empirical objections unless we acknowledge its contributions as a method of inquiry. The third claim relates a modal understanding of rational action to a systematic analysis of the processes of belief formation. Ermakoff elaborates these claims by submitting research problems that stand on the frontiers of the standard model to the rational choice approach and speaking to core sociological issues.
1. What leads agents to endorse norms that curtail their ability to realize their interests?
2. Which strategies of action do agents implement when they face situations that undercut the prospect of stable predictions?
3. How can agents deceive themselves, that is, give credence to beliefs that they know to be mistaken?
 
Ivan Ermakoff is Directeur d’Études at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales and Professor of Sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
 
Selected publications
  • Ermakoff, I.: Prelates and Princes: Aristocratic Marriages, Canon Law Prohibitions and Shifts in Norms and Patterns of Domination in the Central Middle Ages. In: American Sociological Review 62, 405-22 (1997).
  • Ermakoff, I.: Ruling Oneself Out: A Theory of Collective Abdication. Durham: Duke University Press 2008.
  • Ermakoff, I.: Theory of Practice, Rational Choice and Historical Change. In: Theory and Society 39, 527-53 (2010).
  • Ermakoff, I.: Motives and Alignment. Social Science History, Special Section: Politics, Collective Uncertainty, and the Renunciation of Power 34(1), 97-109 (2010).
  • Ermakoff, I.: Rational Choice May Take Over. In: Bourdieu and Historical Analysis, Philip Gorski ed.). Durham: Duke University Press 2013, 89-107.
  • Ermakoff, I.: The Structure of Contingency. In: American Journal of Sociology 121(1), 64-125 2015.

  •  
    Preparatory readings
  • Ermakoff, I: Prelates and Princes: Aristocratic Marriages, Canon Law Prohibitions and Shifts in Norms and Patterns of Domination in the Central Middle Ages. In: American Sociological Review 62, 405-22 (1997).
  • Ermakoff, I.: The Consistency of Inconsistency. In: Ruling Oneself Out: A Theory of Collective Abdication. Durham: Duke University Press 2008.
  • Ermakoff, I.: Theory of Practice, Rational Choice and Historical Change. In: Theory and Society 39, 527-53 (2010).
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