An International Comparison of Retirement and Late-Career Patterns in Western Industrialized Countries
Chapter 3: Globalization, Institutional Strategies and Late Careers
THE THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK: A RATIONAL CHOICE APPROACH Rational choice theory: basic principles In the following, I shall develop my own theoretical model to explain current early retirement trends that builds on the foundations laid by the theoretical approaches outlined in the preceding section. However, in contrast to the earlier approaches, my argument will be based explicitly on a sociological rational choice perspective. The term ‘rational choice’ comprises a whole ‘family’ of theoretical approaches that progressively have attracted attention in both the social and the political sciences (Diekmann and Voss 2004: 13). In the following, I shall largely refer to the works of James Coleman (2000) and Hartmut Esser (1990, 1999a, 1999b), which are most frequently used in the social sciences. The key aim of their approaches is to provide a theoretically based explanation of collective phenomena occurring on the level of aggregate social systems (Hedström and Swedberg 1996: 129). In doing so, however, rational choice theorists postulate that an explanation ‘based on the internal analysis of system behavior in terms of actions and orientations of lower-level units is likely to be more stable and general than an explanation which remains at the system level’ (Coleman 2000: 3). In other words, the rational choice approach is based on the assumption that, in the social sciences, aggregate phenomena cannot be explained adequately by an isolated reference to other macro-level entities, that is by a mere ‘macro–macro link’. The emergence of Western-type capitalism as described by Max Weber (1991), for example,...
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