Social theories help us to understand the world and the society in which we live in and to interpret why people behave the way they do in the context of the existing social norms. In sociology, rational choice theory and the institutional paradigm aid us in exploring various social aspects in clear detail. The key difference between the rational choice theory and the institutional paradigm rests on the focus of each of the theories.
For instance, rational choice theory addresses the pursuit for self-interest of human beings and their capacity to make choices that are generally based on the costs and benefits of their individual actions. On the other hand, the institutional paradigm maintains the belief that social structures have important roles in social relations and that these social structures influence the behaviors of human beings in every possible way.
Rational choice theory also asserts that even our most altruistic actions and decisions have their innate strands of self-interest despite the observation that such actions and decisions are seen as selfless. Moreover, the theory also seeks to understand why people are inclined to work as a group in meeting a common goal even though the realization of the goal or even the process of reaching that goal may become inconsistent with the personal welfare of each of these individuals.
The theory also finds that issue intriguing in more complex and larger human organizations since the difficulties present become larger as well. While rational choice theory espouses the idea of individuals able to come-up with informed decisions which in turn lead to how the society becomes structured, the institutional paradigm gives room for “accidents” or unintended consequences. More specifically, the institutional paradigm asserts that even historical accidents can happen, outcomes that are not the results of the rational decision-making process of an individual or a group of individuals.
There may be people who were simply at the right place and at the right time, thereby resulting to consequential decisions that are neither planned nor carefully thought of in a rational way. Another key idea of the paradigm is the idea that the social institutions created by human beings such as social rules are open to change since human beings can undo the things in the society that they have set forth for themselves.
Both the rational choice theory and the institutional paradigm can explain the issue of the widespread influence of religion such as Christianity and its religious practices in the contemporary society since it began. Rational choice theory will argue that Christianity and its practices have survived the years because people have chosen to integrate the religious edicts into their lives based on how they promote the interest of the followers. People tend to devote themselves to religion in general because of the benefits they can get weighed against the costs of their decision to follow the religion.
Without the benefits, people will hardly join Christianity or any religion in general. On the other hand, the institutional paradigm will interpret the influence of Christianity as a result of the force of social norms on people. The rulers at the time and the high-ranking officials at the time may have compelled their subjects to join Christianity and that force was carried over through the following generations until it became a social norm.
People may not necessarily have resorted to their rational decision-making capabilities since they do not have the power to resist the social norm. As a result, individuals become simply inclined to become Christians or followers of any other religion even without depending on their rationality and their pursuit of self-interest.
Work Cited “Thinking Sociologically”. 2009 February 5. <http://www. sociologyonline. net/text/intro/main/c2e848w. htm#choice>.
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