One of the most significant developments in modern social science is, without doubt, the expansion of economic analysis beyond the customary boundaries of economics into the domains of other disciplinary fields such as law, history, sociology, and political science, a development often referred to as “economic imperialism” (Tullock, 1972; Radnitzky and Bernholz, 1987; Swedberg, 1990, p. 14; Frey, 1999, p. viii). Public Choice or, as it has also been called, the New Political Economy or Non-Market-Economics has played a prominent role in this development, which has significantly changed the relationship between economics and its scientific neighbors. In contrast to the exclusive focus on the mechanics of market forces and the pronounced tendency towards disciplinary isolation that has characterized neoclassical, mainstream economics, the new political economy has systematically extended the “economic perspective” into areas of inquiry that have traditionally been regarded as the domain of other social sciences.

Public choice theory has had its most visible influence in political science, whereas its impact in sociology has been much weaker. Yet, sociology is at the same time the social science that feels most fundamentally challenged by the new, generalized economics. In sociology, more than in any other social science, ‘‘economic imperialism’’ is perceived as a threat to the field’s disciplinary identity. Why this is so can be better understood if one takes a look at the history of the relation between economics and sociology, the two neighboring social sciences that ‘‘have been estranged from each other far too long’’ (Swedberg, 1990: p. 3).


Public Choice Rational Choice Sociological Theory Rational Choice Theory Methodological Individualism 
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  • Viktor Vanberg

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