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Rational Choice Paradigm

Reading the five paradigms that aid us in understanding our society, I have chosen Institutional Paradigm as the most engaging. I stand by what Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s believe that although, people can decide on their own, their decisions are strongly influenced by their social surroundings and their cultural experiences. I believe that institutions like the church, the government or even the smallest institution, the family, mold people into what makes them Americans, Chinese, Germans, etc. An American child does not become a Chinese because he/she chooses to be one.

The child grows up to be an American because of the influence he/she receives from the social institutions surrounding him/her. If his or her parents are Catholics, it is most likely that the influence of their Church will lead the young individual to become a Catholic too. The parents also pass on their teachings to their child/ren depending also on the influences they receive from these social institutions. It is also interesting to study how these social structures pass the test of time, bending to every adjustment they have to make to attain social stability.

This flexibility exhibited by the people controlling these institutions is what makes Institutional Paradigm interesting. In this aspect that I believe Institutional Paradigm is an effective way to understand our society. Although it strives to reach a social equilibrium like Functionalism, it is not limited to using one single path of action but is geared towards developing a new one that will work in an existing society. There are several questions that Institutional Paradigm can answer. By studying the history of these institutions, we can see what made them appealing or unappealing to the people within their scope of influence.

This paradigm can determine people’s reaction towards institutions that affect their lives. The responses of these institutions to a changing world can also help us determine how they view these changes and explain why they choose a particular path to respond to such changes. Since institutions are made by people, we can determine through the traits of the people who established these institutions what made their influences stand the test of time–what made them so effective that their influences are almost close to human nature.

These influences can help us determine why societies embraced them and support them generations after generations. The paradigm that I find the least useful is the Rational Choice Paradigm. Studying billions of individual self-interest is for me a futile attempt to understand our society. I also believe that in considering self-interest, it will be difficult to establish a cooperative behavior within a large society. This may only be possible if the goal of the society is towards a generally accepted good like world peace or ending global warming.

Most people may agree that we do have to work towards world peace but personal interest may prevent them from actually acting on that goal especially if their safety will be compromised. Saving earth from the ill effects of global warming may move people towards this common interest. On the other hand, it will be hard to predict if people will actually pursue this goal if they are already required to give up their vehicles to lessen the carbon dioxide emitted in the atmosphere. Another problem this paradigm may encounter is its tendency to become unsteady.

The inconsistent desires of human may cause it to lose direction in choosing a particular path to study. Man’s ability to chose may tempt him to abusive the freedom he is given. A common good may be hard to attain when everybody pursues his or her own interest. We know for a fact that no two persons are alike. It will also follow that no two human desires may be identical. What I think Rational Choice Paradigm neglects to address is the fact that people react to their surroundings. It is prudent to study the environment than to understand the individual choices people make in response to their environment.

The institutions that influence man have a more solid database in their history. It is said in the beginning of this chapter that although we have scientific methods that we could use to study human behavior, we can only do so much since our subjects, humans, are unpredictable and multidimensional. Studying individual self-interest may also give moral issues since tests are bounded by limitations such as the person’s safety and/or privacy. These limitations will give sociologists an incomplete picture of their subjects.

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