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Rationality in International Relations

Miles Kahler
International Organization
Vol. 52, No. 4, International Organization at Fifty: Exploration and Contestation in the Study of World Politics (Autumn, 1998), pp. 919-941
Published by: The MIT Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2601362
Page Count: 23
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Rationality in International Relations
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Abstract

Rationalist models have faced four persistent sets of critics as the research program of international relations has evolved. Under neorealism's structural constraints of international competition and selection, agents' rationality may appear superfluous. Psychological critics have presented neither a single theoretical alternative to rational choice nor contingent hypotheses that specify when psychological distortions of rational decision making are most likely. Both rational choice and psychological approaches must construct models of action for social entities that aggregate individuals. The rationality and individualism of beliefs is questioned by theorists who stress culture, identity, and norms as independent sources of action. Careful stipulation of scope, acknowledgment of methodological shortcomings, and precise definition of differences can serve to bridge the theoretical divide between rational choice models and their critics. Problem-centered research provides a level playing field on which theoretical competition can be established.

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