Game Theory and Comparative Politics: New Perspectives and Old Concerns
World Politics 53 ( January 2001), 173-204
32 Pages Posted: 15 Aug 2014
Date Written: 2001
In an effort to take stock of the claims put forth by advocates of game theory, this article offers an assessment that considers game theory both as a set of theoretical principles that extends rational choice theory to interdependent decision making and as a type of formal methodology. Some important strengths of game theory are identified, such as its emphasis on actors and strategic choices and its ability to generate predictions in a logically rigorous and internally consistent manner. But many shortcomings are also discussed. One shortcoming is that the effort to develop a theory of action falls short, both in the sense of failing to provide a full explanation of actions and in the sense of not applying to domains of great significance. A second shortcoming is the failure of the procedures used in formal modeling to offer guidance pertaining to a critical step in the process of modeling: the conceptualization of the model. Thus, the challenge facing scholars in comparative politics is to consider the new perspectives offered by game theory and draw upon its strengths, but to do so without losing sight of a series of old concerns in the social sciences that game theory is not suited to tackle.
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