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Return to Game Theory

Manoranjan Mohanty

By Arun Bose
Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 1977, pp. 2i6, Rs. 40.00

VOLUME III NUMBER 1 July/August 1978

First order theoretical activity has been rare in recent literature in social sciences. Works which convey an integrated social understanding and a sense of historical sweep, and which possess a philosophical quality while at the same time relating themselves to common human problems, are not easy to find. But claims to such status are not scarce. Arun Bose’s work makes a valiant attempt at contributing to the develop­ment of a science of politics. Though the attempt does break new ground, the exercise as a whole is inhibited by several methodological paradoxes and ideological puzzles, to use the author's own terms. Among the approaches which have during the past two decades gained some currency and respectability, the game theory is one. This approach which originated in course of the formulation of war strategies seeks to explain social and political action by using the analogy of a variety of games. Bose is aware of the grounds for the increasing unpopularity of this approach and studiously tries to refute the criticism. He thinks that several problems of the contemporary world can be better explain­ed with the use of the game theory. This is built into his general approach that a science of politics can emerge only if the pure moralism of philosophers like Plato and the pure realism of thinkers like Machiavelli are replaced with a dynamic  synthesis, which he calls the ‘rule of reason’. Bose’s general argument on the nature of scientific theory that does not concede a value-fact dichotomy reflects an emerg­ing consensus in the philosophy of science. But his reliance on game theory and his formulation of the world problems as ‘paradoxes and puzzles’ weaken the main thrust of his proposition. Game theory belongs to the large body of post­-World War II methodological schools in the West which remain essentially sub-theoretical. Like the other mathem­atical modes of social analysis its value lies only in its capacity to simplify and represent rather than explain or solve. Each one of Arun Bose’s chapters follows the method of the usual multi-factor reasoning and only after completing such analysis he invites us to a dose of game theory. That is to say, his work can stand even without the appendices, notwithstanding the methodological objec­tions to game theory. Bose suggests that problems like Vietnam’s victory over the military might of the U.S.A. cannot ...

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