Rational Choice Theory and Analytical Sociology

During the past two decades or so, rational choice theory has significantly advanced in refining its theoretical core and its empirical applications, and has made a respectable contribution to a large variety of substantive research areas. Proponents of rational choice reasoning often argue that the rational choice approach, unlike any other paradigm in the social sciences, can be characterized by a well-developed, highly consistent, and widely shared set of formalized core assumptions. They praise its emphasis on parsimonious model building, conceptual rigor, and explicit attention to micro-macro problems for theory formation — qualities that, in the eyes of its proponents, warrant claims of a “privileged role” of rational choice modeling above other approaches attempting to explain social phenomena in terms of individual action. The rational choice approach indeed continues to attract use by increasing numbers of scholars. In more and more subfields of the social sciences, scholars realize the usefulness of the rational choice approach as a tool for theory-driven social research and interventions. But there is probably no aspect of rational choice theory that has not been criticized: its model of human nature, its reductionism. What is needed is a theory of social rationality that is able to incorporate the recent advances researchers made with regard to uncovering human nature. My research aims to contribute to the development and empirical application of this social rationality approach.


Wittek, R. (2014). Siegwart Lindenberg: Rationaliteit met een sociale ziel. Pp. 221-244 in Over Professoren. Een halve eeuw psychologie, pedagogiek en sociologie aan de Rijksuniversiteit Groningen. Onder redactie van H. Amsink en M. van Essen. Assen: Van Gorcum.

Wittek, R., T.A.B. Snijders and V. Nee (eds.). The Handbook of Rational Choice Social Research. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press (2013).

Wittek, R. (2013). Rational Choice. Oxford Bibliographies Online: Sociology. http://www.oxfordbibliographies.com/obo/page/sociology.

Wittek, R., T.A.B. Snijders, and V. Nee (2013). Rational Choice Social Research. In: Handbook of Rational Choice Social Research, ed. by R. Wittek, T.A.B. Snijders and V. Nee. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press.

Wittek, R., and A. van Witteloostuijn (2013). Rational Choice and Organizational Change. In: Handbook of Rational Choice Social Research, edited by R. Wittek, T.A.B. Snijders and V. Nee. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press.

Wittek, R. (2013). Rational Choice Theory. In: Theory in Social and Cultural Anthropology: An Encyclopedia. Edited by R. Jon McGee and Richard L. Warms. Newbury Park: Sage. 

Korff, V., M. Zou, T. Zwart and R. Wittek (2013). Rationality and Society. Pp. 290-299 in Handbook of Sociology and Human Rights, edited by D.L. Brunsma, K.E. Iyall Smith and B.K. Gran. Boulder: Paradigm.

Wittek, R., and A. Flache (2003). Rationale Wahl und Organisationstheorie. Kölner Zeitschrift für Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie 42, 55-87. 

Wittek, R. (2006). Abnehmende Abstraktion, Idealtypen, Erklärungslogik und Theorienverständnis bei Weber und der erklärenden Soziologie im Vergleich. Pp. 419-443 in Integrative Sozialtheorie? Esser - Luhmann - Weber, edited by Rainer Greshoff and Uwe Schimank. Wiesbaden: VS Verlag.

Wittek, R. (2002). Theorienvergleich in den Sozialwissenschaften [Theory Comparison in the Social Sciences]. Ethik und Sozialwissenschaften 12 (4), 533-535.