Bounded Sociality: Behavioural Economists’ Truncated Understanding of the Social and Its Implications for Politics

Publication: Scientific journalJournal articlepeer-review


Behavioural economics provides a more realistic model of man than neoclassical economics. But ‘behavioural economic man’ likewise has his shortcomings. An important aspect is the neglect of social contingency. This article sheds light on the conceptions of the ‘social’ invoked in different strands of behavioural economics and explores their policy implications. Based on different interpretations of the rational choice paradigm and deviations thereof, a distinction is drawn between mainstream approaches and alternative approaches to behavioural economics and within ‘mainstream behavioural economics’ between its cognitive and its social strand. Whereas the cognitive strand of behavioural economics has quite a limited understanding of the social, which yields a narrow form of behavioural politics, the social strand offers a richer account of social variability and dynamics, which in principle leaves more room for politics. However, both approaches lay emphasis on our human nature rather than the specificities of modern culture.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)243 - 258
JournalJournal of Economic Methodology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Bibliographical note

Updated version

Austrian Classification of Fields of Science and Technology (ÖFOS)

  • 504001 General sociology
  • 504030 Economic sociology

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