Self-Interest and Public Interest in Western Politics

Self-Interest and Public Interest in Western Politics

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Is it self-interest or public interest that dominates Western politics? This question has been debated in many fields, and through the 1980s a consensus developed, supported by extensive research, that in their political decisions and actions people are largely motivated by self-interest, and not by the common good. In this book the author examines more than 200 studies of democracy in action from 17 countries, combining insights from different fields such as rational choice theory, political philosophy and electoral research, and argues that the theory that egoism rules simply does not match the facts. He looks at the behaviour and attitudes of voters, bureaucrats and politicians to challenge this accepted wisdom. In his review of the literature he attempts to show that people are in fact actuated by broader considerations than their own short-sighted interests, that they act politically "in the shadow of the future" and that they find there are overwhelming reasons to try to contribute to the long-term common good. The work is aimed at teachers and students of comparative politics, West European politics, political science, political theory, and more

Product details

  • Paperback | 152 pages
  • 140.7 x 214.9 x 10.7mm | 232.16g
  • Oxford University Press
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 1 figure
  • 0198277253
  • 9780198277255

Review quote

`useful for both students and beginners who want a first contact with the problem and its classic literature' Public Choice `This book may certainly be useful for students who need an introductory review of some important empirical literature. In this sense, it could be a very useful text for an upper-level undergraduate course in empirical political behaviors or political philosophy.' Public Choice `The strengths of this fine, concise book are the diversity of areas covered and the author's awareness of the North American, European, and Japanese literatures on all of these topics. I would strongly recommend it to the participants in any of these debates.' Comparative Politics 'The book is an extended literature review but, as the judgements indicate, a review with a bite. It is written in an accessible and non-technical style, and will prove invaluable in introducing students on comparative politics courses to the world of rational choice. The sharp judgements it offers also make it an independently valuable addition to the literature.' Michael Moran, Victoria University of Manchester, West European Politics, Vol. 15, No. 1, January 1992 `thorough and balanced' Political Studies `This series provides a welcome and much needed boost for a more analytical and theoretically informed treatment of west European politics. Professor Patrick Dunleavyshow more

Table of contents

Self-interest and public interest; Does the voter vote according to his pocket-book?; Are politicians vote-maximizers?; Are bureaucrats budget-maximizers?; Individual and collective rationalityshow more

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