Game Theory: A Critical Introduction

Game Theory: A Critical Introduction

Game Theory: A Critical Introduction

Game Theory: A Critical Introduction

Synopsis

"Game theory is rapidly becoming established as one of the cornerstones of the social sciences. No longer confined to economics it is spreading fast across each of the disciplines, accompanied by claims that it represents an opportunity to unify the social sciences by providing a foundation for a rational theory of society. This book is for those who are intrigued but baffled by these claims. It scrutinises them from the perspective of the social theorist without getting lost in the technical complexity of most introductory texts. Requiring no more than basic arithmetic, it provides a careful and accessible introduction to the basic pillars of game theory. The introduction traces the intellectual origins of Game Theory and explains its philosophical premises. The next two chapters offer a careful exposition of the major analytical results of game theory. Whilst never losing sight of how powerful an analytical tool game theory is, the book also points out the intellectual limitations (as well as the philosophical and political implications) of the assumptions it depends on. Chapter 4 turns to the theory of bargaining, and concludes by asking: What does game theory add to the Social Contract tradition? Chapter 5 explains the analytical significance of the famous 'prisoners' dilemma', while Chapter 6 examines how repetition of such games can lead to particular theories of the State. Chapter 7 examines the recent attempt to overcome theoretical dead-ends using evolutionary approaches, which leads to some interesting ideas about social structures, history and morality. Finally, Chapter 8 reports on laboratory experiments in which people played the games outlined in earlier chapters. The book offers a penetrating account of game theory, covering the main topics in depth. However by considering the debates in and around the theory it also establishes its connection with traditional social theories." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

As ever there are people and cats to thank. There is also on this occasion electronic mail. The first draft of this book took shape in various cafeterias in Florence during YV’s visit to Europe in 1992 and matured on beaches and in restaurants during SHH’s visit to Sydney in 1993. Since then the mail wires between Sydney and Norwich, or wherever they are, have rarely been anything other than warm to hot, and of course we shall claim that this might account for any mistakes.

The genesis of the book goes back much longer. We were colleagues together at the University of East Anglia, where game theory has long been the object of interdisciplinary scrutiny. Both of us have been toying with game theory in an idiosyncratic way (see SHH’s 1989 and YV’s 1991 books)—it was a matter of time before we did so in an organised manner. The excuse for the book developed out of some joint work which we were undertaking during SHH’s visit to Sydney in 1990. During the gestation period colleagues both at Sydney and at UEA exerted their strong influence. Martin Hollis and Bob Sugden, at UEA, were obvious sources of ideas while Don Wright, at Sydney, read the first draft and sprinkled it with liberal doses of the same question: ‘Who are you writing this for?’ (Ourselves of course Don!) Robin Cubbitt from UEA deserves a special mention for being a constant source of helpful advice throughout the last stages. We are also grateful to the Australian Research Council for grant 24657 which allowed us to carry out the experiments mentioned in Chapter 8.

It is natural to reflect on whether the writing of a book exemplifies its theme. Has the production of this book been a game? In a sense it has. The opportunities for conflict abounded within a two-person interaction which would have not generated this book unless strategic compromise was reached and cooperation prevailed. In another sense, however, this was definitely no game. The point about games is that objectives and rules are known in advance. The writing of a book by two authors is a different type of game, one that game theory does not consider. It not only involves

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