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IR Working Paper 1990/8
J. L. Richardson, ‘Informal Theories of Rationality’, IR Working Paper 1990/8, Canberra: Department of International Relations, Research School of Pacific Studies, Australian National University, September 1990.
Questions concerning rationality remain fundamental for both theory and practice in international relations. Although they are frequently questioned, assumptions of rationality underlie most foreign policy analysis. Both of the extreme approaches are unsatisfactory, i.e., the application of formal models of rational choice, on the one hand, and the radical rejection of rationality assumptions, on the other. Complex choices such as those in foreign policy are best explicated in terms of an ‘informal’ concept of rationality which is outlined here, developing suggestions in the work of Robert Jervis and Jon Elster.