The third man; or, agency in history; or, rationality in revolution

History and Theory 40 (4):143–152 (2001)
Abstract
Theories of revolution invoke human agency to commit the violence that revolution entails, yet theorists of revolution often denounce the general theory of human agency called rational choice because it does not explain macrosocial facts like revolution and also leaves out culture. Actually, however, rational choice is the major premise of any cogent explanation of revolution, and it includes culture as a factual premise. Rational-choice theory applied to explaining revolution dates back to Thucydides, whose method of explanation is sound and whose theory of revolution is true. Thucydides explains the macrosocial fact of revolution by way of models whose elements are people doing what they hope will succeed, that is, acting on opinion alias culture. Theorists of revolution who make sense of it all rehearse Thucydides: they analyze the narrative history into strategic actions and reactions, explain these actions and reactions by rational choice, and document the explanation with direct and circumstantial evidence for hope of success, though they seldom own up on theory and method or preach what they practice
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