Revista Brasileira de Ciências Sociais
versão impressa ISSN 0102-6909
ELSTER, Jon. The possibility of rational politics. Rev. bras. Ci. Soc. [online]. 1999, vol.14, n.39, pp. 13-40. ISSN 0102-6909. http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S0102-69091999000100002.
The author criticizes the notions of social engineering and economic planning as modern guises of the old idea that political action is individual action writ large. He states that societies make decisions and execute them in ways that are different from individual choice and that therefore the conception of rationality based on the individual actor does not explain political action. The author argues that, given the fragility of instrumental rationality in politics, a conception of justice offers an alternative motivation for political action. Based on the analysis of the rise of the welfare state and the extension of franchise, he shows that the main political reforms implemented during this century were not founded on instrumental considerations. Rather, they were fought for by social movements anchored in a conception of justice based on the right to equal concern and respect, including the right to share equally in the making of political decisions and the right to equal material welfare. The motivation to bear the costs of transition and to experiment with various forms of implementation of political reform arises not from the benefits in results obtained therefrom but from the perception that the reform's underlying principle is a just one.
Palavras-chave : Rationality; Politics; Justice; Political reforms; Social engineering.