Writings on the Theory of Action

 
In 2011, I organized, in Paris at the University of Paris-Sorbonne, the fourth conference of the European Network of Analytical Sociologists (ENAS) --since then renamed the International Network of Analytical Sociologists (INAS). Karl-Dieter Opp delivered a keynote paper in the conference's closing roundtable to which Peter Hedström and Petri Ylikoski were also invited to participate as discussants (see the conference's full program). Eventually, Opp's paper was published in Social Science Information. Given the critical nature of his paper with respect to analytical sociology, the editor's journal invited comments
 
My “Is rational choice theory still a rational choice of theory?” focuses less on analytical sociology than on one of Opp's main, and most general, claims according to which "it is highly problematic to renounce the application of RCT unless a better theory is available. This is not in sight. Dispensing with RCT would mean to give up a possibility to enhance our knowledge." Building on recent writings on neo-classical rational choice theory, on behavioral economics and on cognitive psychology, I attempt to challenge this view and explain why, in my view, rational choice theory is currently trapped in the undesirable dilemma of being either formalized and strongly predictive but descriptively inaccurate, or more realistic (basically renouncing the assumption of preference consistency) but vague and weakly predictive.
 
Download the paper --Manzo, G (2013) “Is rational choice theory still a rational choice of theory?”, Social Science Information, 52, 3, 361-382.

Late 2013 Sage decided to highlight the debate in the Social Science Information Vodcasts.   
 
 
Early 2012, the Department of Sociology and Human Geography (University of Oslo) organized a PhD and post-doctoral seminar in Paris on "Norms, Values, and Normative Argumentation". Raymond Boudon was one of the invited speakers but, due to health problems, he was obliged to decline and kindly proposed I take his place. This was a great occasion for me to react to the assessment of contemporary analytical sociology as well as to the conception of rational action that Boudon wondefully summarized in the paper he wrote for the "Norvegian" seminar (see the seminar's full program).
 
“Reason-based Explanations and Analytical Sociology. A Rejoinder to Boudon”, eventually published in European Journal of Social Sciences (50, 2, p. 35-65) was the final, synthetic result of my thinking on Boudon's theory of rationality. Although starting with this specific understanding of rational action, the article turned into a more general analysis of the limitations of the so-called "wide" versions of rational choice theory and argue that, in order to combine the realism of an unconstrained conception of rationality with the ex-ante facto predictive power of the narrow version of rational choice theory, we should better understand the relation between potentially triggering events and the actor’s “reasons”. I suggest that the literature on "heuristics", on "social identity", and on "emotions" can be exploited to advance in this direction.

For institutions subscribing Cairn, the article can be downloaded here.

The article was re-printed in 2014 in a special issue on Raymon Boudon published by the Spanish journal Papers (and it can be freely downloaded).

[see also the debates section]