Political Economy: Rational Choice and Collective Action

Undergraduate Program Status

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Course Description: 

This course is an introduction to theories of rational choice and collective action in political science. We will explore the key concepts that can be used to explain political, economic and social phenomena from a rational-choice perspective (including preferences, opportunities, interests, mechanisms and equilibria). We will pay special attention to the dilemmas of collective action: why and under what conditions do individuals engage in collective action, even when individual strategies would look more rational? While rational choice is often associated with formal mathematical modelling techniques, this course will instead explore the fundamental theoretical considerations that motivate the use of models. Our goal will be to reflect on how models can capture key aspects of politics through simplification and how various approaches to simplification may limit the use of models.  

Learning Outcomes: 

By the end of the course, students will be able to understand and reflect on (1) key concepts of rational choice and collective action as applied to political agents and institutions; (2) some fundamental models of democratic politics; and (3) their application to current political phenomena.