Choosing an Identity

A General Model of Preference and Belief Formation
Sun-Ki Chai
Challenges the conventional rational choice approaches with one that allows for cultural diversity and change


Social science research is fragmented by the widely differing and seemingly contradictory approaches used by the different disciplines of the social sciences to explain human action. Attempts at integrating different social science approaches to explain action have often been frustrated by the difficulty of incorporating cultural assumptions into rational choice theories without robbing them of their generality or making them too vague for predictions. Another problem has been the major disagreements among cultural theorists regarding the ways in which culture affects preferences and beliefs.

This book provides a general model of preference and belief formation, addressing the largest unresolved issue in rational choice theories of action. It attempts to play a bridging role between these approaches by augmenting and modifying the main ideas of the "rational choice" model to make it more compatible with empirical findings in other fields. The resulting model is used to analyze three major unresolved issues in the developing world: the sources of a government's economic ideology, the origins of ethnic group boundaries, and the relationship between modernization and violence.

Addressing theoretical problems that cut across numerous disciplines, this work will be of interest to a diversity of theoretically-minded scholars.

Sun-Ki Chai is Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of Arizona.

Praise / Awards

  • ". . . sets out the assumptions of 'conventional' rational choice theory, as Chai calls it, together with an assessment. . . . Second, Chai presents an impressive summary and assessment of alternatives to conventional rational choice theory. These alternatives, he concludes, are unable to resolve the fundamental problem, namely: How do we preserve the strengths of the theory while overcoming its weaknesses? . . . I recommend the book to anyone who is interested in the debate about rational choice theory in the social sciences. From that point of view, but beyond the scope of the applications in this book, it would be interesting to see how the coherence model might be employed in the context of the sociology of religion, an area of considerable controversy in regard to the application of rational choice strategy."
    —Thomas J. Fararo, University of Pittsburgh, Contemporary Sociology, Volume 31: No. 5
  • ". . . an incredibly ambitious book. Chai not only proposes a new, formal model of preference and belief formation, he also examines three large literatures and offers new theoretical tests within them. He attempts to show that integrating his 'coherence model' with a simple optimizing model allows analysis that other rational or nonrational choice models cannot. . . . . Those interested in rational choice (regardless of their discipline identification) and in the substantive areas addressed should carefully consider the challenges issued and the solutions offered."
    —Jane Sell, Texas A & M University, American Journal of Sociology, November 2002

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Copyright © 1999, University of Michigan. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • 336 pages.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Ebook
  • 2010
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-02395-0

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