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Rational Ritual: Culture, Coordination, and Common Knowledge (New in Paperback)
     

Rational Ritual: Culture, Coordination, and Common Knowledge (New in Paperback)

by Michael Suk-Young Chwe
 

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Why do Internet, financial service, and beer commercials dominate Super Bowl advertising? How do political ceremonies establish authority? Why does repetition characterize anthems and ritual speech? Why were circular forms favored for public festivals during the French Revolution? This book answers these questions using a single concept: common

Overview

Why do Internet, financial service, and beer commercials dominate Super Bowl advertising? How do political ceremonies establish authority? Why does repetition characterize anthems and ritual speech? Why were circular forms favored for public festivals during the French Revolution? This book answers these questions using a single concept: common knowledge.

Game theory shows that in order to coordinate its actions, a group of people must form "common knowledge." Each person wants to participate only if others also participate. Members must have knowledge of each other, knowledge of that knowledge, knowledge of the knowledge of that knowledge, and so on. Michael Chwe applies this insight, with striking erudition, to analyze a range of rituals across history and cultures. He shows that public ceremonies are powerful not simply because they transmit meaning from a central source to each audience member but because they let audience members know what other members know. For instance, people watching the Super Bowl know that many others are seeing precisely what they see and that those people know in turn that many others are also watching. This creates common knowledge, and advertisers selling products that depend on consensus are willing to pay large sums to gain access to it. Remarkably, a great variety of rituals and ceremonies, such as formal inaugurations, work in much the same way.

By using a rational-choice argument to explain diverse cultural practices, Chwe argues for a close reciprocal relationship between the perspectives of rationality and culture. He illustrates how game theory can be applied to an unexpectedly broad spectrum of problems, while showing in an admirably clear way what game theory might hold for scholars in the social sciences and humanities who are not yet acquainted with it.

In a new afterword, Chwe delves into new applications of common knowledge, both in the real world and in experiments, and considers how generating common knowledge has become easier in the digital age.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Communal activities, with lots of emotional and symbolic content . . . serve a rational purpose, argues Michael Suk-Young Chwe. . . . [His] work, like his own academic career, bridges several social sciences."--Virginia Postrel, New York Times

"A welcome addition. . . . Rational Ritual . . . can be understood and enjoyed by almost anyone interested in human interaction."--Vincent P. Crawford, Journal of Economic Literature

"Chwe's work contains a gem of an idea. . . . The originality of Chwe's thinking, and his courage in stepping over the boundaries of academic disciplines, deserve admiration."--Tilman Börgers, Economica

"An innovative and broad-ranging book."--Alfred Stepan, Comparative Politics

New York Times
Communal activities, with lots of emotional and symbolic content . . . serve a rational purpose, argues Michael Suk-Young Chwe. . . . [His] work, like his own academic career, bridges several social sciences.
— Virginia Postrel
Journal of Economic Literature
A welcome addition. . . . Rational Ritual . . . can be understood and enjoyed by almost anyone interested in human interaction.
— Vincent P. Crawford
Economica
Chwe's work contains a gem of an idea. . . . The originality of Chwe's thinking, and his courage in stepping over the boundaries of academic disciplines, deserve admiration.
— Tilman Börgers
Comparative Politics
An innovative and broad-ranging book.
— Alfred Stepan
New York Times - Virginia Postrel
Communal activities, with lots of emotional and symbolic content . . . serve a rational purpose, argues Michael Suk-Young Chwe. . . . [His] work, like his own academic career, bridges several social sciences.
Journal of Economic Literature - Vincent P. Crawford
A welcome addition. . . . Rational Ritual . . . can be understood and enjoyed by almost anyone interested in human interaction.
Economica - Tilman Borgers
Chwe's work contains a gem of an idea. . . . The originality of Chwe's thinking, and his courage in stepping over the boundaries of academic disciplines, deserve admiration.
Comparative Politics - Alfred Stepan
An innovative and broad-ranging book.
Economica - Tilman Börgers
Chwe's work contains a gem of an idea. . . . The originality of Chwe's thinking, and his courage in stepping over the boundaries of academic disciplines, deserve admiration.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780691158280
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Publication date:
04/28/2013
Edition description:
With a New afterword by the author
Pages:
152
Sales rank:
1,362,967
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.60(d)

Meet the Author

Michael Suk-Young Chwe is Associate Professor of political science at the University of California, Los Angeles and author of Jane Austen, Game Theorist (Princeton).

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