1.1 What is Constructivism?
Kratochwil (2008; 86) identifies two basic commitments that form the core of Constructivism. The first one is the acknowledgement that agency matters in social life, meaning that what we do matters. People, through their actions, are capable of structuring and restructuring the social environment around them.
The second commitment of Constructivism says that if we accept that the world is constructed, then the ideas and notions that we have about their actions also matter. Constructivists see the world, and reality in itself, as constructed by human beings, their conceptions of reality and their agreed upon definitions of it.
When it comes ...view middle of the document...
I think that questioning the ideas that we have and take for granted is a good way to start of any academic project, as it can help to gain further understanding of the phenomenon at hand. Also, when it comes to the specific question of the EP elections.
2. Rational Choice Theory
2.1 What is Rational Choice Theory?
Rational Choice Theory (RCT) bases itself on the notion of rationality. As Chwaszcza (2008: 142) describes it;
Another basic assumption made by RCT theorists is the individual as the central actor. Even though there are some exceptions in the broad scope of RCT branches, most versions start from the individual and attempt to explain broader processes through aggregating the individuals actions (della Porta & Keating 2008; 1).
According to RCT, the individual will act motivated by self-interest and strive to maximize their personal benefits (ibid; 3). As both Steinmo (2008; 126) and della Porta & Keating (2008; 3) point out, rational choice puts focus on institutions as setting the incentives for rational choice. As della Porta & Keating (ibid; 9-10) put it: ”For rational choice institutionalists, institutions shape the patterns of incentives and sanctions available to individuals making decisions.”
”... the model of reasoning in RCT must be characterized as a logical model of reasoning. It is definitely not a psychological account, but a formal account that specifies the ideal conditions under which a specific account of reasoning, maximization of expected utility, yields well-defined solutions.”
￼733A48: Research Design and Methods Caroline Bruzelli 890503-0469 2.2. Why Rational Choice Theory?
I think it is time that I explain myself on why I have chosen RCT as one of my approaches. I am aware that the description to the assignment stated to choose two chapters from della Porta & Keating and analyze from these perspectives. Rational Choice does not have a chapter of its own, but it is discussed throughout many of the other chapters.
There are basically two reasons for choosing RCT. The first is that it contrasts interestingly to Constructivism. Kratochwil (ibid; 87) shows how Constructivism and RCT give two very differing narratives about the nature of social reality. RCT theorists will agree with the Constructivist assumption that agency matters in social life. However, they tend to have world-view that further emphasizes scientific realism than social construction. Thus, the distinction between these two approaches seems conducive for my analysis.
The second reason for choosing RCT is rather stubborn, and possibly naive. The reason for not including it in the book was according to della Porta and Keating that the debate concerning it has been exhausted with time, and that they would come no further discussing it (ibid; 10). Throughout the book, there are several instances when the different authors criticize core assumptions of RCT (cf. Keating 2008; 104; cf Pizzorno 2008; p. 172).
Thus, I found it attractive to...