Rationality is a central problem in social science, and it has figured prominently in the study of politics. Any attempt to understand or prescribe action has to reckon with the concept since it is the ideal type for both individuals and national systems. Indeed, the very idea of making decisions and policies is a modern notion indelibly associated with the attempt to exert rational control over events - as opposed to allowing destiny, Gods will, chance or arbitrary power to determine ones lot. This said, it is a matter of debate as to how far human beings are capable of behaving rationally, how rationality is defined in the first place and whether what we deem rational behaviour is in any case so desirable. These issues have produced standoffs such as that between the profession of economics, where the idea of rationality has been of central importance, and other social scientists. For many of the latter the concept looks like a straitjacket imposed on the rich diversity of human motives and interactions, and one which assumes a greater degree of calculation (often quantitative) in the business of choosing futures than is possible or desirable. This debate is alive within political science, where rational choice approaches have made considerable inroads while encountering stiff resistance.
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- Rationality in Foreign Policy
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- Chapter 5