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Regole e conoscenza nelle scelte degli attori sociali

Rules and Knowledge in the Choices of Social Actors

Anno XXIX, n. 127, ottobre-dicembre 1994
Centro Einaudi


Abstract disponibile solo in lingua inglese

The essay begins by outlining the theory of the subjective cost of choice elaborated by James M. Buchanan in Cost and Choice, 1969 (Italian edition, 1993). On these analytical bases, the author argues that the idea of actor's self interest may be applied to virtually all social behaviours if only one takes into account specific institutional and informational contexts. Social investigation thus becomes a choice logic which explains the interactive equilibria which manifest themselves in various organisational milieus (markets, committees, hierarchies). On these bases, the author advances normative arguments vis-à-vis some public policies. This explanatory logic may, he says, evolve into a fully-fledged scientific theory in so far as it is capable of making all the cost elements which motivate the actors of choices objective. As far as political questions are concerned, this step cannot be assured by the price system alone, but also requires a specific methodology capable of addressing at least the principal non-pecuniary elements in the choice cost, such as desire for status, sense of belonging to a community, moral beliefs and so on. Under these conditions, the behaviour of actors such as parties, electors, bureaucrats, representatives and governors may be the subject of a theoretically strong and empirically realistic treatment.