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The Handbook of Political, Social, and Economic Transformation$
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Wolfgang Merkel, Raj Kollmorgen, and Hans-Jürgen Wagener

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780198829911

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198829911.001.0001

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(p.42) Chapter 4 Actors
The Handbook of Political, Social, and Economic Transformation

Wolfgang Merkel

Hans-Jürgen Wagener

Oxford University Press

Methodological individualism is widely accepted in the social sciences as a fundamental theoretical paradigm. In this context, it means attributing collective decisions or societal acceptance to individual behaviour. From the perspective of action theory, the outcome of transformation processes therefore depends less on objective circumstances (structures) or power configurations than on the subjective assessments, strategies, and actions of the relevant actors. As a rule, elites are the predominant actors in political and in economic system change. Since in the transformation process the basic institutions of society are generally reformulated at the negotiating table, much of the attention is centred on negotiation theories that use game-theoretical tools. By contrast to modernization, culturalist, and structuralist theories, actor theories set out from the micro and meso levels of the actors. Different approaches can be discerned. Historical-empirical approaches do not go beyond the description of transformation processes. Economic public choice approaches assume rather simplistic motivational structures of actors. In actor-centred institutionalism, the social sciences find a typical fusion of paradigms: action- and structure-theoretical approaches are combined.

Keywords:   elites, methodological individualism, actor-centred institutionalism, rational choice, uncertainty, pacts, game theory, social choice, public choice, institutional individualism

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