Why rational choice? Reconciling Kornai with rational choice theory

Originally published in Acta Oeconomica

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János Kornai was an early and influential critic of rational choice theory, who opposed its application to interdisciplinary questions. In this paper, we attempt to show that certain contemporary uses of rational choice theory are perfectly compatible with Kornai's critique of general equilibrium theory, as well as his broader vision of economics as a mode of understanding. To do so, we leverage the insights of several “ordinary language” philosophers to demonstrate that the utility of rational choice theory derives from its grammatical properties rather than the truth values of its axioms.