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The World the Game theorists Made$
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Paul Erickson

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780226097039

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226097206.001.0001

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Dreams of a Final Theory

Dreams of a Final Theory

(p.240) Chapter Seven Dreams of a Final Theory
The World the Game theorists Made

Paul Erickson

University of Chicago Press

The appearances of game theory in evolutionary biology in the 1970s foreshadowed the theory’s widespread adoption in the social sciences in the 1980s. During this latter period, the analysis of repeated “supergames” and, especially, the “non-cooperative” Nash Equilibrium solution concept for games (of which the evolutionarily stable strategy was a particular refinement), entered the mainstream of economic theory. This chapter therefore examines the nature of this brand of game theory’s appeal in the social sciences. Non-cooperative game theory held out the possibility of grounding an ultimate theory of society in parsimonious assumptions of individual self-interest, thereby also knitting together game theory’s normative, descriptive, and predictive aspects. This agenda sought to distinguish itself from von Neumann and Morgenstern’s earlier “cooperative” game theory and the “mathematical-institutional” approach to economics, with their insistence on the plurality of logically possible social orders. But even as non-cooperative game theory took off within economics during the 1980s, the hunt for non-cooperative solutions to games began to run into technical problems and interpretive challenges. As a result, even as game theory established itself as a widely-adopted modeling idiom in the social and biological sciences, its internal diversity and interpretive flexibility began to reassert itself.

Keywords:   economics, Nash Equilibrium, supergames, non-cooperative game theory, mechanism design

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