Among the various variants which have attempted to overcome the limitations of the model of rational actor is to ask for the type of rationality that is assumed in the explanation of the rational choice and inquire about the assumption of instrumental rationality.
A paradigmatic case is the idea of standard. james Coleman (Foundations of Social Theory: 242-3) states that the rules occur when the socially defined right to control the action is held not by the actor but by others’, and the logic of the rules is associated to the issues of sanctions (and rewards). Against that, and in a text that is made prior to the formulation of Coleman, Habermas in the Theory of Communicative Action (p 702 in the edition of Trotta) remember, to purpose of the ideas of Durkheim and Parsons, that the idea of sanction is insufficient:
Naturally, the agent can adopt in the face to the values and norms of the same attitude that you faced the facts [the attitude that Coleman discusses, the of found themselves face to sanctions]; but they might not even understand what is meant by values and standards if you are unable to adopt in front of them an attitude of compliance, an attitude based on recognition of its claim to validity.
And that is precisely what you criticized him later to Coleman: that your ideas, nor give account of what it means to a standard; and one might well argue that it is not the idea of right which enables us to understand a rule, but, on the contrary to the standard understanding of a right (which is a concept baseline in all the theory colemaniana of rational action). This discussion allows us to understand what is critical in this look: to understand these issues requires a notion of rationality more complex than the one that allows rational action.
One of the authors that may be included within this idea is Raymond Boudon for whom the scale of rationality is if the actor has good reasons (not necessarily reasons ‘correct’), and the good reasons are not limited to the instrumental but also include the regulations. One of the cases discussed is an argument of Adam Smith: why the English of the EIGHTEENTH century it seemed reasonable that the soldiers were paid less than the miners? In both cases there are strong dangers, but in the case of the soldiers there is a symbolic component (their actions are to the nation) for which they receive compensation (from medals to funerals special). As the miners do not receive these symbolic reparations, then for reasons of justice should receive increased compensation (Boudon 1998: 188-190). This would be, independent of whether the argument seems to us to be correct, it is a sample of ‘good reasons’: and in that sense are rational: There is that move from the model instrumental to the cognitive model.
The idea of communicative action in Habermas is also based on the instrumental action represents an incomplete version of rationality. But here the argument is stronger, because it is not just that there are other areas where you can apply the rationality, is that instrumental music is not autosustenta.
Rationality in Habermas, has to do with the claims of validity of something. It is evident that the instrumental action is not useful for discussing the claims of validity of something that does not relate to the world of objects. But at the same time, the instrumental action, the rationality typical of the relationship means-ends, not aware of the basic fact that the actors are subjects who can discuss the claims of validity of the claims (including those of the objective world). In that sense, you can only look at the others as actors, decision-making, but not as actors in communication: ‘The strategic action, in which differentiation of the theological work, it is still a concept that budgets ontological concerns, nor to require more than a single world [the aim]’ (Habermas, TAC: 121). It is for this reason that the instrumental rationality, ultimately, can not give account of itself, and it requires a communicative rationality: The instrumental action requires certain claims about the world, but it is only communicative rationality which allows me to analyze from a theory of the rationality of those claims. What allows the actors to evaluate the claim of validity that involves every act of speech, and then generate a link rationally motivated about it is the communicative rationality; and it requires an actor that is more complex and refers to more worlds than allowing the instrumental theory (Habermas, CT: 323). It is relevant to remember that the extension of Habermas’s idea of rationality does not imply that the instrumental action does not exist-only that they can’t give an account of himself, and only under the idea of communicative action, we find a notion of action that is grounded to itself.
For both authors it is a valid phrase of Mary Douglas: the first requirement of a rational actor is to have a world that is understandable (Douglas and Isherwood: 1979). At the same time, the differences between the two authors show us that it is difficult to understand this kind of rationality. Boudon (Le Juste et le Vrai, 1995: 221) argues that his theory differs crucially from the theory habermasiana in the insistence on the objective character of the good reasons: While Habermas would be enough to give a rational that is the result of a frank and open discussion in perfect conditions of communication, Boudon insists that reasons are required to be solid (otherwise, it would fall into the relativism of ‘if the actors give reasons for valid, will be valid’). But, without having any criteria to establish that it is a strong reason, beyond reference to the common sense and that seems to us to be reasonable, Boudon nor can you respond to your own criticism (see Manzo 2014: 25). In some sense, in Boudon for which the action is conceived of as a rational actor should independently have come to this conclusion -opposing then the social influence to an explanation of cognitive of the good reasons, good reasons do not require social influence (Boudon JV: 161-201); while Habermas is a social process of discussion which would establish that it is rational. From Habermas, the argument of Boudon does not work because how, if not through to give reasons for the public criticism, it might show that my reason is sound? Do and does not require the same Boudon that their reasons are transubjetivas and convincing (Boudon JV: 67), and this requires a social debate? Now, in and out of the discussion of these two forms of rationality expanded, if each community has its own world of the life beyond, as such the rational discussion how is it possible to consider a general criticism or that go beyond the internality of the world, of life? or does that put the issue of those who are out of this world of life and that communication community? (Dussel, 1998: paragraph 279-280)
Rationality extended seems an interesting path, to overcome conceptions that constrain what is rational to what is verifiable empirically, in both cases for example it is the ethical discourse as rational; but such an extension does not allow to establish with clarity what it means to this broader notion of rationality. From the original perspective, what is gained in breadth is lost in accuracy; and the cost would be greater than the benefit I would say an advocate of rational choice.
Boudon, R. (1995). Le juste et le vrai. Paris: Fayard.
Coleman, J. (1990). Foundations of Social Theory. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press
Douglas, M. and Isherwood, B. (1979). The World of Goods. London: Routledge.
Dussel, E. (1998). Ethics of Liberation in the age of Globalization and Exclusion.
Habermas, J. (2010). The theory of Communicative Action. Madrid: Trotta
Manzo, G. (2014). Data, Generative Models, and Mechanisms. In G. Manzo (Ed.), Analytical sociology (p. 4-52). Chichester: Wiley.