Power and Madness: The Logic of Nuclear Coercion

By Edward Rhodes | Go to book overview

2
RATIONALITY AND IRRATIONALITY

THIS CHAPTER explores concepts of rationality and irrationality. This exploration provides the necessary foundation for consideration in the following chapters of the implications of irrational behavior for coercion. This is not a book on organizational behavior or the psychology of decision-making, and specialists in these areas may be disappointed by the cursory treatment of the subject. (By contrast, other readers may be somewhat surprised by the extent to which the subject is treated--or dismayed that it is addressed at all.) The aim here is simply to define terminology and establish basic concepts necessary for an effective discussion of coercion.

Four specific topics need to be addressed: the nature of rationality and rational behavior, the failings that would make a decision-making process irrational, the possible causes of such failings, and the notion of irrational--as distinct from inadvertent or accidental--war and escalation.


RATIONALITY

As we shall use the term "rationality," it reflects a decision-making process, rather than the substance of a decision or an outcome. An actor is rational if he employs a rational decision-making process; a rational decision-making process is one that uses information intelligently in selecting policies which maximize the decision-maker's consistently evaluated expected utility.

To say that an actor exhibits rationality is to say that his decisions

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