Rational Choice Sociology: Essays on Theory, Collective Action and Social Order

Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: Edward Elgar Publishing
Year: 2019
Language: English

Edited by

Michael Hechter, Foundation Professor, School of Politics and Global Studies, Arizona State University and Emeritus Professor of Sociology, University of Washington, US

Rational Choice Sociology shows that despite the scepticism of many sociologists, rational choice theory indeed can account for a variety of non-market outcomes, including those concerning social norms, family dynamics, crime, rebellion, state formation and social order.

Book Review

Within sociology, rational choice theory has been widely criticised and excluded due to its emphasis on methodological individualism. The issue seems to be related to the understanding of rationality and its objective and subjective nature. Michael Hechter is a sociologist and a fierce proponent of rational choice in sociology with a long and distinguished career. He has made seminal contributions to rational choice theory and is widely acknowledged for excellent scholarship and theoretical sophistication. This book is an excellent overview of Michael Hechter’s contributions and the importance of rational choice theory to the analysis of a wide variety of non-market outcomes. It shows that rational choice is an important tool to explain social phenomena and can add value to their analysis. Rational Choice Sociology is a must read for anyone interested in rational choice in sociology or the analysis of social issues.

Other Notable Editorial Reviews

‘Throughout his long career, Michael Hechter has been one of the discipline’s most creative and exacting theorists. This volume pulls together some of his most important publications, showing an extraordinary range of contributions to a variety of substantive problems – from the foundations of social order, to the formation of group solidarity, civil war, rebellion, state structures, and the foundations of class versus identity politics.’
– Andrew G. Walder, Stanford University, US

‘This is one of the finest collections of papers in sociological theory. ‘Michael Hechters work on sociological rational choice theory captivates with its creative application to a multitude of different topics among them the key questions of solidarity, social change, and social order. Hechter shows that sociological rational choice theory is much more than a utility maximization device. By adding “value” to rational choice he elegantly comes to innovative and often surprising explanations of social phenomena. Dealing with the work of this most eminent theorist is a must for any scholar interested in sociological theory and its applications.’
– Andreas Diekmann, ETH Zurich, Switzerland and University of Leipzig, Germany

‘Michael Hechter has pioneered the application of rational choice theory to sociology. The range of his contributions – and the extent to which he has refined the theory – is well represented in this collection of seminal essays on key sociological topics, such as demography, nationalism, historical sociology, collective action, state formation and social norms. If the discipline has now acquired firm analytical foundations, it is to a great extent thanks to Hechter’s scholarship. No student of sociology can afford to ignore such an extraordinary body of work.’
– Federico Varese, University of Oxford, UK

‘Michael Hechter is one of the major proponents of rational actor theory in the social sciences. The book is a useful collection of some of the major articles that cover important issues that are of general interest – in particular collective action and social order. The book shows the wide range of application of the theory and, hopefully, will contribute to further increase its recognition as an important tool to explain social phenomena.’
– Karl-Dieter Opp, University of Leipzig, Germany and University of Washington, US

‘An early pioneer of sociological rational choice, Michael Hechter has made seminal contributions to rational choice theory over a career spanning nearly 50 years. This book brings those contributions together in a single volume. Although the chapters address a range of substantive topics – fertility decisions, the value of children, collective action, the genesis of mutiny, and state formation – at its core is a deep concern with a fundamental question for social science: How is social order, solidarity, and control possible in human societies? This book provides a compelling answer from a rational choice perspective.’
– Ross L. Matsueda, University of Washington, US

Purchase online

The eBook version is priced from £25/$32 from Google Play and other eBook vendors, while in print the book can be ordered from the Edward Elgar Publishing website.


Introduction Michael Hechter

1 Michael Hechter and Satoshi Kanazawa (1997), ‘Sociological Rational Choice Theory’, Annual Review of Sociology , 23 , 191–214 2
2 Debra Friedman, Michael Hechter and Satoshi Kanazawa (1994), ‘A Theory of the Value of Children’, Demography , 31 (3), August, 375–401 26
3 Debra Friedman, Michael Hechter and Derek Kreager (2008), ‘A Theory of the Value of Grandchildren’, Rationality and Society , 20 (1), February, 31–63 53

4 Michael Hechter (1978), ‘Group Formation and the Cultural Division of Labor’, American Journal of Sociology , 84 (2), September, 293–318 87
5 David Siroky and Michael Hechter (2016), ‘Ethnicity, Class, and Civil War: The Role of Hierarchy, Segmentation, and Cross-cutting Cleavages’, Civil Wars , 18 (1), January, 1–17 113
6 Michael Hechter (2004), ‘From Class to Culture’, American Journal of Sociology , 110 (2), September, 400–445 130
7 Michael Hechter, Steven Pfaff and Patrick Underwood (2016), ‘Grievances and the Genesis of Rebellion: Mutiny in the Royal Navy, 1740 to 1820’, American Sociological Review , 81 (1), February, 165–89 176
8 Steven Pfaff, Michael Hechter and Katie E. Corcoran (2016), ‘The Problem of Solidarity in Insurgent Collective Action: The Nore Mutiny of 1797’, Social Science History , 40 (2), Summer, 247–70 201

9 Michael Hechter and William Brustein (1980), ‘Regional Modes of Production and Patterns of State Formation in Western Europe’, American Journal of Sociology , 85 (5), March, 1061–94 226
10 Michael Hechter and Satoshi Kanazawa (1993), ‘Group Solidarity and Social Order in Japan’, Journal of Theoretical Politics , 5 (4), October, 455–93 260
11 Sun-Ki Chai and Michael Hechter (1998), ‘A Theory of the State and of Social Order’, Homo Oeconomicus , XV (1), 1–26 299
12 Michael Hechter (2018), ‘Norms in the Evolution of Social Order’, Social Research: An International Quarterly , 85 (1), Spring, 23–51 325

About The Author

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top

Do you want to join the

The International Social Capital Association is an international non-profit member-based association devoted to advancing the research on and the application of the social capital concept for the benefit of all.

Read our Privacy policy

Subscribe for updates