Prisoners of Reason: Game Theory and Neoliberal Political Economy

In This Review

Prisoners of Reason: Game Theory and Neoliberal Political Economy
By S. M. Amadae
Cambridge University Press, 2016
360 pp.

Amadae argues that neoliberal thought derives in great part from elements of game theory, particularly the so-called prisoner’s dilemma, which emphasizes how final payoffs affect the strategies of potential adversaries. American and Soviet strategists used game theory to develop their countries’ nuclear postures during the Cold War. Since then, the rise of pro-market, pro-globalization neoliberalism—which favors decision- making based on rational choice and narrow self-interest—has encouraged the spread of game theory into many other aspects of life and society, particularly the realms of business and finance. The author draws an unfavorable contrast between neoliberalism and classical liberal thought, which emphasizes respect for individuals and procedural fairness, counsels decision-makers to do no harm, and considers outcomes other than final payoffs. Like many philosophical inquiries, the book is a bit heavy at times, but it offers a thoughtful examination of the fundamental assumptions on which modern society is based. 

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