The Contributions of Rational Choice: A Defense of Pluralism


In "Rigor or Rigor Mortis: Rational Choice and Security Studies," Stephen Walt warns of the dangers to the field of security studies that are in store "[i]f formal theory were to dominate security studies as it has other fields of political science." He backs up these warnings by evaluating published formal work in the field according to seemingly reasonable criteria, finding that the gain in rigor inherent in formal work is not sufficient to offset its empirical, creative, and policy–relevance weaknesses. While Walt ends with a plea for diversity, the overall structure of the argument puts rational choice on trial, finds it lacking but threatening to become dominant, and does little to serve the purpose of encouraging pluralism.