A New Handbook of Political Science

By Robert E. Goodin; Hans-Dieter Klingemann | Go to book overview

Chapter 23
Political Theory, Old and New

Brian Barry

I SHALL take up three issues here each of which is common to two of the three chapters under discussion. Young and von Beyme both assert the importance of rational choice theory. But neither says much about it and that little seems to me in need of qualification. I shall devote the first section to this. In the second section I shall take sides on a question that divides Young and Parekh: the position of John Rawls in relation to earlier writers in the postwar period. Finally, in the third section I shall explain why I reject a proposition that Young and Parekh agree on, that contemporary mainstream liberal political philosophy is in need of radical reconstruction because of its inability to come to terms with cultural diversity.


I Rational choice theory: successes and
limitations

A Normative applications

Iris Young lays emphasis on the contributions of rational choice theory to normative questions, while von Beyme is enthusiastic about prospects for "the stabilization of political science as a discipline" ( von Beyme above: 525) by the rational choice approach. I shall follow this division, taking up normative applications here and then moving on to positive applications.

In accordance with my theme of "old and new" in political theory, let me begin with old wine in new bottles: the reworking of the classics in the light of rational choice theory. The two major figures whose political theories

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