Game Theory: A Critical Introduction

Front Cover
Game theory is rapidly becoming established as one of the cornerstones of the social sciences. No longer confined to economics it is spreading fast across each of the disciplines, accompanied by claims that it represents an opportunity to unify the social sciences by providing a foundation for a rational theory of society. This book is for those who are intrigued but baffled by these claims. It scrutinises them from the perspective of the social theorist without getting lost in the technical complexity of most introductory texts. Requiring no more than basic arithmetic, it provides a careful and accessible introduction to the basic pillars of game theory. The introduction traces the intellectual origins of Game Theory and explains its philosophical premises. The next two chapters offer a careful exposition of the major analytical results of game theory. Whilst never losing sight of how powerful an analytical tool game theory is, the book also points out the intellectual limitations (as well as the philosophical and political implications) of the assumptions it depends on. Chapter 4 turns to the theory of bargaining, and concludes by asking: What does game theory add to the Social Contract tradition? Chapter 5 explains the analytical significance of the famous 'prisoners' dilemma', while Chapter 6 examines how repetition of such games can lead to particular theories of the State. Chapter 7 examines the recent attempt to overcome theoretical dead-ends using evolutionary approaches, which leads to some interesting ideas about social structures, history and morality. Finally, Chapter 8 reports on laboratory experiments in which people played the games outlined in earlier chapters. The bookoffers a penetrating account of game theory, covering the main topics in depth. However by considering the debates in and around the theory it also establishes its connection with traditional social theories.

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About the author (1995)

Heap is Lecturer in Economics at the School of Economic and Social Studies, University of East Anglia, Norwich.

Varoufakis is of the University of Sydney.

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