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How Do You Know?: The Economics of Ordinary Knowledge

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Overview

How do ordinary people come to know or believe what they do? We need an account of this process to help explain why people act as they do. You might think I am acting irrationally—against my interest or my purpose—until you realize that what you know and what I know differ significantly. My actions, given my knowledge, might make eminently good sense. Of course, this pushes our problem back one stage to assess why someone knows or believes what they do. That is the focus of this book. Russell Hardin supposes that people are not usually going to act knowingly against their interests or other purposes. To try to understand how they have come to their knowledge or beliefs is therefore to be charitable in assessing their rationality. Hardin insists on such a charitable stance in the effort to understand others and their sometimes objectively perverse actions.

Hardin presents an essentially economic account of what an individual can come to know and then applies this account to many areas of ordinary life: political participation, religious beliefs, popular knowledge of science, liberalism, culture, extremism, moral beliefs, and institutional knowledge. All of these can be enlightened by the supposition that people are attempting reasonable actions under the severe constraints of acquiring better knowledge when they face demands that far outstretch their possibilities.

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Editorial Reviews

CEU Political Science Journal
Overall, this book is a good choice for anybody with broad interests, as Hardin is highly knowledgeable on an impressive broad scale of issues. It is well-written, and the many international examples give this book a rare global perspective. . . . [I]t is an essential reference that serves as an excellent guide to a fast, multidisciplinary theme.
— Hans Dubois
Perspectives on Politics
[Hardin] he offers an insightful lens on popular knowledge in society and politics.
— Mark B. Brown
CEU Political Science Journal - Hans Dubois
Overall, this book is a good choice for anybody with broad interests, as Hardin is highly knowledgeable on an impressive broad scale of issues. It is well-written, and the many international examples give this book a rare global perspective. . . . [I]t is an essential reference that serves as an excellent guide to a fast, multidisciplinary theme.
Perspectives on Politics - Mark B. Brown
[Hardin] he offers an insightful lens on popular knowledge in society and politics.
Choice
This book is an exceptionally clear statement of why individuals believe and act as they do and should be especially useful to policy makers.
From the Publisher
"This book is an exceptionally clear statement of why individuals believe and act as they do and should be especially useful to policy makers."Choice

"Overall, this book is a good choice for anybody with broad interests, as Hardin is highly knowledgeable on an impressive broad scale of issues. It is well-written, and the many international examples give this book a rare global perspective. . . . [I]t is an essential reference that serves as an excellent guide to a fast, multidisciplinary theme."—Hans Dubois, CEU Political Science Journal

"[Hardin] he offers an insightful lens on popular knowledge in society and politics."—Mark B. Brown, Perspectives on Politics

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691137551
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 4/6/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Russell Hardin is professor of politics at New York University and the author of many books, including "David Hume: Moral and Political Theorist, Indeterminacy and Society" (Princeton), "Liberalism, Constitutionalism, and Democracy", and "One for All: The Logic of Group Conflict" (Princeton).

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Table of Contents

Preface xi
Acknowledgments xiii

Chapter 1: Ordinary Knowledge 1
An Economic Theory of Knowledge 4
The Social Generation of Knowledge 10
Knowledge from Authority 11
The Division of Labor and Individual Knowledge 14
The Internalization of Norms 15
Standard Philosophical Theories of Knowledge 19
Concluding Remarks 25

Chapter 2: Popular Knowledge of Science 28
Medical Knowledge 35
Estrangement from Science 41
The Science Wars 44
Religion versus Science 45
A New Science? 49
Concluding Remarks 58

Chapter 3: Democratic Participation 60
The Logic of Collective Action 62
The Economic Theory of Democracy 63
Voting and Ordinary Knowledge 65
Knowledge of How to Vote 66
Median Knowledge 69
Understanding Whether to Vote 70
Multidimensional Issues 78
Concluding Remarks 80

Chapter 4: Liberalism 83
Austrian Social Theory 84
Legibility and Democracy 87
Seeing like Hayek 89 Distributed Knowledge and Policy 91
Civil Liberties 93
Liberty and Welfare 96
Concluding Remarks 99

Chapter 5: Moral Knowledge 101
Individual Moral Knowledge 103
Testing Moral Theories against Common Sense 105
The Strategy of Knowing 111
The Economics of Moral Motivation 113
Social Evolution of Collective Moral Knowledge 114
Authority and Moral Knowledge 118
Concluding Remarks 119

Chapter 6: Institutional Knowledge 121
Strategic Interaction and Institutions 123
Institutions and Moral Knowledge 124
Institutions as Meliorative 126
Apparent Mutual Advantage 130
Interpersonal Comparisons of Welfare 131
Concluding Remarks 133

Chapter 7: Religious Belief and Practice 135
Religious Knowledge by Authority 138
Incentive to Believe, or Count as True 142
Adaptive Knowledge Revision 143
Communal Sources of Belief 147
Communal Enforcement of Belief 148
Sincerity of Belief and Knowledge 150
Fundamentalist, Infallible Belief 153
Concluding Remarks 159

Chapter 8: Culture 161
Group-Specific Implications of Individual Knowledge 162
Knowledge and Culture 166
A Functional Account of Culture 175
The Goodness of a Culture 176
Collective Identity 179
Concluding Remarks 181 Chapter 9: Extremism 185
Knowledge by Authority, Again 186
Normal Politics 187
The Belief System of Extremism 188
Nationalism 191
Fanatical Action without Fanatical Belief 195
Interests and Knowledge 196
Knowledge, Fanaticism, and Nationalism 200
Coerced Ignorance 201

Concluding Remarks 203
References 205
Index 219

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