Rational Choice Sociology
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Rational Choice Sociology

Essays on Theory, Collective Action and Social Order

Michael Hechter

Rational Choice Sociology shows that despite the scepticism of many sociologist, rational choice theory indeed can account for a variety of non-market outcomes, including those concerning social norms, family dynamics, crime, rebellion, state formation and social order.
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Chapter 11: A Theory of the State and of Social Order

Sun-Ki Chai and Michael Hechter


The problem of order is addressed by considering the crucial role that social groups play in mediating between individuals and the state. We argue that existing individualistic models of anarchic order cannot account for order in large societies, while state-centered models cannot explain the state's origins. The origin of the state can best be explained as the result of interactions within and between highly solidary social groups. Accordingly, we discuss the bases of group solidarity, focusing on the costs of maintaining compliance via monitoring and sanctioning. We examine the relationship between member dependence and solidarity, as well as the conditions for coercive solidarity. Then we explore the implications of group solidarity for the attainment of social order. Highly solidary groups permit the creation and maintenance of social order by using their control institutions to enforce member compliance at a lower cost than the state can. These groups can be considered to be unitary actors at the societal level of analysis. The attainment of group solidarity and social order are viewed as isomorphic processes. Social order is shown to be an outcome of multiple nested layers of group solidarity, with the optimal size and span of nested groups varying from society to society.

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