In simple action theory, when people choose between courses of action, they know what the outcome will be. When an individual is making a choice “against nature,” such as switching on a light, that assumption may hold true. But in strategic interaction outcomes, indeterminacy is pervasive and often intractable. Whether one is choosing for oneself or making a choice about a policy matter, it is usually possible only to make a guess about the outcome, one based on anticipating what other actors will do. In this book Russell Hardin asserts, in his characteristically clear and uncompromising prose, “Indeterminacy in contexts of strategic interaction … Is an issue that is constantly swept under the rug because it is often disruptive to pristine social theory. But the theory is fake: the indeterminacy is real.”
In the course of the book, Hardin thus outlines the various ways in which theorists from Hobbes to Rawls have gone wrong in denying or ignoring indeterminacy, and suggests how social theories would be enhanced — and how certain problems could be resolved effectively or successfully — if they assumed from the beginning that indeterminacy was the normal state of affairs, not the exception. Representing a bold challenge to widely held theoretical assumptions and habits of thought, Indeterminacy and Society will be debated across a range of fields including politics, law, philosophy, economics, and business management.
Russell Hardin is Professor of Politics at New York University. He is the author of numerous books including One for All (Princeton), Liberalism, Constitutionalism, and Democracy, and Morality within the Limits of Reason.
"Indeterminacy and Society is a welcome addition to social theory. Hardin does an admirable job of demonstrating why indeterminacy cannot be ignored, and helps lay the foundations of a mutual advantage theory that takes indeterminacy seriously."—Colin Farrelly, Philosophy in Review
"Hardin shows us the importance of recognizing indeterminacy for a wide range of theories, from rational choice to deontological moral theory. The significance of this work for political and moral philosophy should not be underestimated."—Sarah Marshall, Philosophical Quarterly
"This book achieves an unusual feat of balance—conveying both the profundity and the limitations of attempts to use rational choice tools to address grand questions about ideal social organization."—Steven Rytina, American Journal of Sociology
"Russell Hardin shows us the need to face the consequences of indeterminacy. Maximization of independent variables is impossible, standard decision theory is unreal (as is Rawls's theory of justice), and there are no easy answers—though 'ordinary people manage to get through life most of the time.' Combining theoretical virtuosity with common sense, this is one of the essential books of our time."—Jan Narveson, University of Waterloo
"This is an important and first-rate piece of work. Russell Hardin is right to assert that ignoring inescapable indeterminacy is a mistake. The issues he raises are momentous and timely, both in the realm of abstract economic, political, and moral theory, as well as in the study and practice of public policy. So Hardin's frontal attack deserves (and needs) to be considered."—Christopher W. Morris, author of An Essay on the Modern State