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Nested Games

Nested Games: Rational Choice in Comparative Politics

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  • Book Info
    Nested Games
    Book Description:

    Clearly written and easily understood by the nonspecialist, Nested Games provides a systematic, empirically accurate, and theoretically coherent account of apparently irrational political actions.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-91197-0
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. List of Tables
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. Chapter One Nested Games and Rationality
    (pp. 1-17)

    This book analyzes cases in which an actor confronted with a series of choices does not pick the alternative that appears to be the best. In the course of the book, the reader will see that British Labour party activists who consider their standing MP too moderate may vote to replace her, although that choice may lead to the loss of a seat for the Labour party; that Belgian elites who are considered in the consociational literature to be accommodating and compromising in character sometimes initiate political conflict; and that French political parties in certain constituencies do not support their...

  7. Chapter Two In Defense of the Rational-Choice Approach
    (pp. 18-51)

    Rationality, as defined in Chapter 1, is nothing more than an optimal correspondence between ends and means. Because it is difficult to imagine political processes without the means/ends relationship, this definition may seem tautological, innocuous, and trivial to the point that its discussion is unnecessary.

    These impressions are false. First, it is not true that the rational-choice approach is the only possible approach to politics. Section I of this chapter reminds readers that the list of alternative approaches is quite long. In particular, theories such as systems theory and structural functionalism are not concerned with actors, and others such as psychoanalysis,...

  8. Chapter Three Two-Person Games with Variable Payoffs
    (pp. 52-91)

    In Chapter 1, I said that I would represent games in multiple arenas as games with variable payoffs, games in which the payoffs of the game in the principal arena are influenced by the prevailing conditions in another arena. This chapter serves two purposes: to explain why games in multiple arenas can be represented by games with variable payoffs and to introduce the reader to the study of games with variable payoffs.

    Section I analyzes the relation between ordinary game theoretic concepts such as equilibria and subgames, on the one hand, and games in multiple arenas, on the other, and...

  9. Chapter Four Games with Variable Rules, or the Politics of Institutional Change
    (pp. 92-118)

    In Chapter 2, I defined rationality as goal-oriented optimal behavior. Thus, each actor’s behavior is assumed to be an optimal response to other players’ behaviorand to the existing institutional structure. Chapter 3 focused on the first kind of optimality: the mutually optimal strategies that are the subject matter of game theory. This chapter focuses on the second kind of optimality, which concerns the interaction between individuals and institutions.

    The usual approach to institutions within the rational-choice tradition is to study the kinds of behavior they cause. Recurring patterns of behavior are traced back to the prevailing institutions and explained...

  10. Chapter Five Why Do British Labour Party Activists Commit Political Suicide?
    (pp. 119-158)

    In July 1975, the Newham North-East constituency Labour party rejected its representative, the Rt. Hon. Reginald Prentice, as official Labour candidate in the upcoming election. At that time, Prentice was a Labour cabinet minister. In the next election (1979), Prentice, representing the Conservative party in a safe Tory constituency, became a minister in the Thatcher government. His successor in Newham resigned the nomination just before the 1979 election after failing to secure adequate support for his election address from Newham Labour party activists, who felt he was insufficiently left-wing. As a result, the seat was lost for Labour in the...

  11. Chapter Six A Rational-Choice Approach to Consociationalism
    (pp. 159-186)

    The interaction between elites and masses in political decision making is an important issue in democratic theory. Crucial questions concern the importance of mass participation in the decision-making process and its consequences. On these questions, the literature is divided.

    For elite theorists “horizontal communication among the elite rather than vertical communication between the elite and the non elite is the primary mode of making the decisions” (Prewitt and Stone 1973, 152). As Mosca (1939, 156) put it, it is impossible for the masses “to exercise their right of option and control in any real or effective way.” For Michels (1949,...

  12. Chapter Seven The Cohesion of French Electoral Coalitions
    (pp. 187-234)

    Coalition building involves both cooperation and competition, but the dynamics between these two elements has not yet been systematically analyzed. The existing game theoretic literature focuses exclusively on the cooperative aspect of participants in a government coalition (Axelrod 1970; Dodd 1976; Luebbert 1983; Riker 1962). The question posed by this literature is which coalition will form, not which coalitions (once formed) are likely to persist. Moreover, the zero-sum game assumption made either explicitly or implicitly by these authors implies that the coalitions formed will be of minimum size—an empirically inaccurate conclusion.¹

    Recognizing that cooperative and competitive strategies coexist inside...

  13. Chapter Eight Conclusions
    (pp. 235-248)

    Instead of summarizing the major findings of and suggesting new applications for each chapter of this book, I pull together from each chapter the recurring themes. This book offers a rational-choice approach to issues of comparative politics, with particular reference to Western European politics. Substantively, it deals with two distinct themes: political context and political institutions. Consequently, I follow this outline here: Section I discusses the issue of rationality, Section II deals with questions of political context (that is, games in multiple arenas), Section III concerns political institutions (that is, institutional design), and Section IV offers a final remark.


  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 249-268)
  15. Index
    (pp. 269-274)