Self-Interest and Public Interest in Western Politics

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Is it self-interest or public interest that dominates Western politics? This question has been debated in many fields, and through the 1980s a consensus developed, supported by extensive research, that in their political decisions and actions people are largely motivated by self-interest, and not by the common good. In this book the author examines more than 200 studies of democracy in action from 17 countries, combining insights from different fields such as rational choice theory, political philosophy and electoral research, and argues that the theory that egoism rules simply does not match the facts. He looks at the behaviour and attitudes of voters, bureaucrats and politicians to challenge this accepted wisdom. In his review of the literature he attempts to show that people are in fact actuated by broader considerations than their own short-sighted interests, that they act politically in the shadow of the future and that they find there are overwhelming reasons to try to contribute to the long-term common good. The work is aimed at teachers and students of comparative politics, West European politics, political science, political theory, and economics.