“Science in Reflections”

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A critical review of the three chosen literatures discussing various ideas related to political decision making is discussed in the following article. The paper also reflects on the main observations and points put forward by the scholars.
The Introduction chapter of Jon Elster’s book “Science in Reflections” tries to accurately clarify the dynamic essence of Rational Choice Theory. Reasonable philosophy, according to Elster (1998), is something like a normative theory that denotes the importance of reasoned judgments in achieving such objectives. In simple terms, the principle of rational choice can be characterized as the capacity of individuals to make reasonable and reasoned decisions. Rational choice theory plays normative and explanatory roles during its application to a situation. Moreover, the author has tried to explain the confusion between rationality and morality. People tend to make decisions based on their preferences which lead to rationality rather than morality. Elster (1998) has tried to explain the importance of both concepts and urged decision makers to make decisions using both rationality and morality. Rationality-based decisions are based on high self-interest, whereas morality-based decisions consider other people’s interest.

According to Elster (1998), rational belief theory empowers rationality choice theory. Actions can be rational or irrational at the time of making decisions depending on the situation and consequences. The literature specifically explains that the rational behavior of humans while making decisions depends on factual matters. Actions can be predicted by rational choice theory. Moreover, three essential elements explain rational choices based on rational choice theory relevant to a situation.

The first element includes a feasible set of actions, a set of rational beliefs pertinent to the situation, and a feasible alternative set. According to Elster (1988), an individual considers all three elements of rational choice theory while making rational decisions relevant to any specific situation. Elster (1998) has also explained that all decisions are based on choices that yield maximum utility. Moreover, it is important to consider the morality aspect as well while making decisions. Right and wrong should not be ignored while implementing rational choice theory during the decision-making process (Elster, 1988).

Elster (1998) further states that strategic and parametric decisions are based on rational choices available for the decision maker (1988). The outcomes expected from situations contribute to the decision making and rational choices. The author also has tried to explain the importance of rational choice theory by giving examples. For instance, a farmer would consider weather uncertainty while making decisions about the crop. The farmer’s decision would be based on his monetary interest relevant to the situation. Moreover, Elster (1998) has tried to explain failures and limitations of rational choice theory in his article.

According to Elster (1988), theory presumes rational choice to be well defined which makes it difficult to tell the actual rational choice. Also, the explanatory role of theory contradicts with the normative approach of theory that leads to its failure in judging the whole scenario.

Chapter three, “Specifying a Game” of the book “Game Theory of Political Scientists” written by James D. Morrow emphasizes on the decision-making ability of powerful authorities to produce an acceptable outcome of situations. According to Morrow (1994), game theory can be related to utility theory. Game theory involves all decisions and policies adopted by powerful authorities in political situations. Political situations provide powerful authorities with some choices. A prudent political individual makes the decision on the best choice. The chapter has explained all key factors involved in specifying a game while making decisions. The author has tried to explain the decision choices by referring to Cuban missiles situation. First, it is imperative to form an action or game plan and implement strategies accordingly.

Powerful authorities make decisions depending on rational choices in a given situation. Game theory signifies a game plan which political actors adopt in political affairs. According to Morrow, the game plan comprises of decisions that have maximum benefit for the political actor. Morrow has tried to elaborate motive of leaders behind decisions and actions that resulted in Cuban missile crisis (Morrow, 1994).

According to Morrow (1994), there must have been a formulated game plan to decide and produce final outcomes in the case of Cuba missiles crisis. Morrow (1994) has pointed out that there are two actors in any given situation that lead to decision-making procedures. A challenger and a defender decide by considering rational choices that provide maximum benefit to both actors in any given situation. Moreover, the crisis results because of the challenger’s ability to threat and the defender’s resistance. Morrow (1994) believes that game modes must have general characteristics of a situation. An elaborated situation enables political actors to decide appropriately. Decisions are based on best possible choices to produce suitable outcomes of situations (Morrow, 1994).

According to Morrow (1994), game theory model is an effective method that could be implemented to assess political situations. In relevance to political situations, models of deterrence that can be defined as military strategies used during World War II are more complicated and absurd than game theory model. Moreover, these models present political actors with choices that eventually lead to decisions. Morrow (1994) believed that challenger has the last choice and he must decide to back down or declare war. Morrow has elaborated different models in the literature to give a clear picture of decisions made in specific situations. Morrow (1994) has explained games in an extensive form that is the basis of game theory. He has explained games tree that comprises of series of nodes that have branches. The nodes in games tree indicate decisions and branches indicate actions that could be performed at each decision.

Chapter Two, “The Cuban Missile Crisis: A first Cut” of the “Essence of Decision Explaining the Cuban Missile Decision” written by Graham T. Allison and Phillip Zelikow elaborates the details of Cuban Missile Crisis. The circumstances that led to Cuban missiles crisis have been descriptively explained in the book. Allison & Zelikow (1998) have highlighted the main three questions that forced leaders to decide which resulted in Cuban Missile crisis. Moreover, the author has labeled missiles as “Missiles of October” and declared the crisis to be a fascinating affair (Allison & Zelikow, 1998). One of many causes of Cuban missiles crisis is a cold war that formed a basis for the Soviet Union to place nuclear-tipped missiles in Cuba (Allison & Zelikow, 1998). Cuban missiles crisis was based on three central decisions and core questions including why the Soviet Union deployed missiles in Cuba? Why did the United States block Cuba? And why did the Soviet Union decide to withdraw missiles? The authors have utilized extensive evidence available about the crisis in the book. Moreover, the United States carefully formulated policies and strategies while dealing with the Soviet Union. Allison & Zelikow (1998) have tried to explain tactics adopted by both superpowers during World War II phase. Also, the level of risk in U.S- Soviet relations led to decisions resulting in Cuban missiles crisis (Allison & Zelikow, 1998).

The literature has assessed the unique perspective of both governments involved in the crisis. The primary motive of the Soviet Union in deciding to deploy ballistic missiles in Cuba was to discourage U.S invasion of Castro regime. Cold War politics forced the United States and the Soviet Union to implement decisions that resulted in crisis. Allison & Zelikow (1998) have presented many hypotheses in the book to explain the situation and decisions adopted by the United States and the Soviet Union (Allison & Zelikow, 1998).

Cuban missile crisis happened because of the decisions made by the United States and the Soviet Union during World War II. Allison & Zelikow (1998) have explained the conditions and reasons that led the two superpowers to nearly declare a nuclear war against each other. The essence of decision making has been extensively explained in the book. According to Allison & Zelikow (1998), the United States and the Soviet Union faced each other for thirteen days. Also, both governments had an idea about the consequences of the crisis. The author has tried to explain that decisions were made by superpowers based on rational choices at the time of the situation (Allison & Zelikow, 1998).

Decisions are empowered by choices available in situations. The entire crux of literature being reviewed is decisions are based on best available choices. In political situations, morality is neglected, and rationality is considered while implementing decision-making procedures.


Allison, G. & Zelikow, P. (1998). “The Cuban missile crisis: A first cut.”Essence of decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis (pp. 77-129). San Francisco: Benjamin-Cummings Publishing Company.

Elster, J. (1988). “Introduction.” Science in reflection (pp.1-27). New York: Springer.

Morrow, J. D. (1994). “Specifying a game.” Game Theory for political scientists (pp.51-72). Princeton: Princeton University Press.

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