Taylor, Michael 1942- (M.J. Taylor, Michael John Taylor)

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Taylor, Michael 1942- (M.J. Taylor, Michael John Taylor)


Born September 22, 1942. Education: University of London, B.Sc. (honors), 1964; University of Essex, M.Sc., 1965, Ph.D., 1975.


Office—Department of Political Science, University of Washington, Box 353530, Seattle, WA 98195-3530. E-mail—[email protected]


Political theorist and political economist. University of Essex, Colchester, England, computer programmer, 1965-66, research fellow, 1966-68, lecturer, 1968-71, senior lecturer and reader, 1971-85; University of Washington, Seattle, professor, 1985—, Program in Environmental Anthropology, adjunct faculty member, 1997—. Yale University, visiting research associate, 1967-68, visiting lecturer, 1970-71; guest professor at the Institute for Advanced Studies, Vienna, Austria, 1970, 1971; European University Institute, Florence, Italy, 1987; Australian National University, Canberra, visiting fellow, 1988. Member of Council of the Conflict Research Society, 1970-72; Board of the European Branch of the Public Choice Society, 1972-74; Committee on the Political Economy of the Good Society (founding board member), 1989—.


Fellowships at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities and Social Sciences, 1973-74; Social Science Research Council, 1979-80; and Stanford University Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, 1991-92.


(With Douglas W. Rae) The Analysis of Political Cleavages, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 1970.

(Editor, with Charles W. Lomas) The Rhetoric of the British Peace Movement, Random House (New York, NY), 1971.

Anarchy and Cooperation, Wiley (New York, NY), 1976.

(Editor, with Nigel Thrift) The Geography of Multinationals: Studies in the Spatial Development and Economic Consequences of Multinational Corporations, Croom Helm (London, England), 1982.

Community, Anarchy, and Liberty, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1982.

The Possibility of Cooperation, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1987.

(Editor) Rationality and Revolution, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1988.

Rationality and the Ideology of Disconnection, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 2006.

Member of the editorial board for the Journal of Theoretical Politics, 1987—.


Born September 22, 1942, Michael Taylor is a political theorist and political economist. He received his bachelor of science degree with honors, from the University of London in 1964, and his master of science degree, 1965, and doctorate, 1975, from the University of Essex, Colchester England. He has taught at the University of Essex and has traveled around the world as a visiting professor and fellow at various institutions, including Yale University; the Center for Advanced Study at Stanford University, Palo Alto, California; the Netherlands Institute of Advanced Studies in Wassenaar; the Institute of Advanced Studies, Vienna, Austria; the European University Institute, Florence, Italy; and the Australian National University, Canberra. He is a professor of political science at the University of Washington, Seattle, and is part of the adjunct faculty for its Program in Environmental Anthropology. Taylor's courses include the influence of politics on the environment and environmental policies, and economic theories related to politics.

In Rationality and the Ideology of Disconnection, Taylor sets forth his ideas about "rational choice," a formal theory used to model economic and social behavior and a basis for microeconomic models, and how it is applied to society. Rational choice also forms the foundation for social and philosophical theories and is prominent in political science. This theory posits that people make choices based on what is best for themselves from a range of choices, and that collective choices ultimately set up societal patterns.

In the past, Taylor was a supporter of this theory, but in Rationality and the Ideology of Disconnection, he takes issue with common assumptions related to rational choice as applied to economics. He suggests that a strict interpretation of rational choice considers only fiscal advantage as a best choice and makes no allowance for other values, those that are moral or sentimental. He uses an example of subjects who have refused money in exchange for an item whose value, to them, has no price, including a man who refuses to sell his father's knife although he needs the money, the Yavapai Nation which refuses to sell tribal lands to a dam project, and several poor farmers who refuse to sell land to large corporations.

Taylor contemplates why, if rational choice is accurate, people behave in ways that are contrary to their economic benefit. He finds fault in the theory for failing to acknowledge values outside of economic benefit. In Rationality and the Ideology of Disconnection, Taylor suggests that an adherence to rational choice cannot explain why people are honest when it is not to their economic advantage, why they vote for projects that will cost them money or not benefit them directly, and why, in fact, people cooperate at all. Viewed in this way, Taylor shows that rational choice actually becomes irrational, since it denies choices based on reasons other than economy.

Taylor concludes Rationality and the Ideology of Disconnection with a warning: if used as a model for society, rational choice will destroy more than it will create, and in the real world, where people make various kinds of choices, rational choice is a failed model.

In a review of Rationality and the Ideology of Disconnection for Ethics & International Affairs, David A. Welch wrote, "Is it something about us, or something about [r]ational [c]hoice, that invites pathological, dehumanizing applications? Why have we been unable to make the kind of positive use of it that its inventors surely intended? And given that we haven't, how do we free ourselves of the social and economic structures in which our pathological applications have ensnared us? Taylor may not have answers to these questions, but he has eloquently sounded the warning that we fail to find them at our peril."



Ethics & International Affairs, September 1, 2007, David A. Welch, review of Rationality and the Ideology of Disconnection, p. 389.

West European Politics, May 1, 2007, Matthew J. Goodwin, review of Rationality and the Ideology of Disconnection, p. 654.


University of Washington Political Science Department Web site,http://www.polisci.washington.edu (July 30, 2008), author profile.

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