Discourse on rationality: rational choice and critical theory

Madiraju, Santhosh Kumar (1996) Discourse on rationality: rational choice and critical theory. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Printed Thesis Information: https://eleanor.lib.gla.ac.uk/record=b1606696


The thesis contrasts two hostile and divergent intellectual paradigms in social
sciences: rational choice and critical theory. Both rational choice and critical theory
offer contrasting perspectives on the structures of social interaction. However,
both critical theory and rational choice theory share overlapping concerns ie., both
are preoccupied with determining what rational can mean in the realm of social
and political interaction.
In the case of rational choice paradigm, instrumental reason forms the
cornerstone of the theoretical edifice. Ever since the publication of Jurgen
Habermas' The lhemy qf Communicative Action Vol. / (1984) and Vol. II (1986)
instrumental reason has come under severe attack. His critique anchors on a theory
of communicative reason. What makes Habermas' work distinctive is that he does
not regard instrumental reason as the single inevitable concomitant of modernity.
Habermas sees in modernity an alternative way of conceptualising social interaction
in terms of communication rather than strategy. So in a way, his work is a challenge to the defenders of modernity aiming to build a unified social science
Jurgen Habermas advances the notion of communicative reason as the
centerpiece of a social theory as opposed to instrumental reason. By providing a
systematic grounding of the concept of reason in human language, he hopes to
establish normative basis of critical theory. This model of reaching agreement or
consent constitutes a process of dialogue in which reasons are exchanged between
participants. This process is perceived to be a joint search for consensus. Such a
dialogic concept of collective choice would necessarily work not with fixed
preferences to be amalgamated (as rational choice theories do) but with
preferences that are altered or modified as competing reasons are advanced in the
course of discussion. In rational discussion, the only thing supposed to count is the
power of better argument.
Both rational choice and critical theory conceptualise politics in different
ways. Rational choice theories critique democratic mechanisms failing to generate
general will. Consequently, the political prescriptions offered are limited
government or market. On the contrary, the political implications of Habermas'
theory of deliberative democracy is anchored in the notion of liberal public sphere envisaging a cognitivist, rationalist vision in which discourse forms a critical
normative basis for evaluating the political and moral principles.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Politics
Supervisor's Name: Lessnoff, Mr Michael
Date of Award: 1996
Depositing User: Miss Louise Annan
Unique ID: glathesis:1996-6102
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 13 Feb 2015 15:12
Last Modified: 13 Feb 2015 15:12
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/6102

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