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Explaining Social Behavior


  • 5 tables
  • Page extent: 498 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.66 kg


 (ISBN-13: 9780521777445)

This book is an expanded and revised edition of the author's critically acclaimed volume Nuts and Bolts for the Social Sciences. In twenty-six succinct chapters, Jon Elster provides an account of the nature of explanation in the social sciences. He offers an overview of key explanatory mechanisms in the social sciences, relying on hundreds of examples and drawing on a large variety of sources - psychology, behavioral economics, biology, political science, historical writings, philosophy and fiction. Written in accessible and jargon-free language, Elster aims at accuracy and clarity while eschewing formal models. In a provocative conclusion, Elster defends the centrality of qualitative social sciences in a two-front war against soft (literary) and hard (mathematical) forms of obscurantism.

• Draws on and expands author's writings on choice, rationality, irrationality, emotion and norms over the past thirty years • Accessible and appealing to readers of diverse levels and interests • Proposes a view of social science that will appeal to those who are uncomfortable with 'soft' and 'hard' approaches


Preface; Introduction; Part I. Explanation and Mechanisms: 1. Explanation; 2. Mechanisms; 3. Interpretation; Part II. The Mind: 4. Motivations; 5. Self-interest and altruism; 6. Myopia and foresight; 7. Beliefs; 8. Emotions; Part III. Action: 9. Desires and opportunities; 10. Persons and situations; 11. Rational choice; 12. Rationality and behavior; 13. Responding to irrationality; 14. Some implications for textual interpretation; Part IV. Lessons from the Natural Sciences: 15. Physiology and neuroscience; 16. Explanation by consequences and natural selection; 17. Selection and human behavior; Part V. Interaction: 18. Unintended consequences; 19. Strategic interaction; 20. Games and behavior; 21. Trust; 22. Social norms; 23. Collective belief formation; 24. Collective action; 25. Collective decision-making; 26. Organizations and institutions; Conclusion.

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