Studying online

There are now 2 possible online modes for units:

Units with modes Online timetabled and Online flexible are available for any student to self-enrol and study online.

Click on an offering mode for more details.

Unit Overview


Rational choice theory applies the methods of economics to the problems of political science and philosophy. In this unit, we consider rational choice approaches to a diverse range of topics, including the justification of democracy and political authority, questions of constitutional and electoral system design, the behaviour of voters and political parties, and the basis for collective action. We shall also reflect upon the philosophical underpinnings of rational choice theory and consider a range of influential critiques of the approach.

6 points
(see Timetable)
Semester 2UWA (Perth)Face to face
Details for undergraduate courses
  • Level 3 core unit in the Philosophy, Politics and Economics major sequence
  • Level 3 elective

Students are able to (1) explain the fundamentals of the rational choice approach; (2) demonstrate an understanding of key insights resulting from the application of rational choice theory to politics, government and collective action; (3) explain how these insights relate to and inform issues in political science, economics, and philosophy; (4) reflect critically upon the strengths and limitations of the rational choice approach to politics, government and collective action; and (5) synthesise philosophical, political and economic ideas and their application to social problems.


Indicative assessments in this unit are as follows: (1) examination; (2) research essay; and (3) in-class assessment. Further information is available in the unit outline.

Student may be offered supplementary assessment in this unit if they meet the eligibility criteria.

Unit Coordinator(s)
Dr Lachlan Umbers
Unit rules
Successful completion of
any level 2 Unit(s) POLS, PPHE, PHIL
Contact hours
1 x 1.5 hour online lecture per week
1 x 3 hour seminar per week
  • The availability of units in Semester 1, 2, etc. was correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change.
  • All students are responsible for identifying when they need assistance to improve their academic learning, research, English language and numeracy skills; seeking out the services and resources available to help them; and applying what they learn. Students are encouraged to register for free online support through GETSmart; to help themselves to the extensive range of resources on UWA's STUDYSmarter website; and to participate in WRITESmart and (ma+hs)Smart drop-ins and workshops.
  • Unit readings, including any essential textbooks, are listed in the unit outline for each unit, one week prior the commencement of study. The unit outline will be available via the LMS and the UWA Handbook one week prior the commencement of study. Reading lists and essential textbooks are subject to change each semester. Information on essential textbooks will also be made available on the Essential Textbooks. This website is updated regularly in the lead up to semester so content may change. It is recommended that students purchase essential textbooks for convenience due to the frequency with which they will be required during the unit. A limited number of textbooks will be made available from the Library in print and will also be made available online wherever possible. Essential textbooks can be purchased from the commercial vendors to secure the best deal. The Student Guild can provide assistance on where to purchase books if required. Books can be purchased second hand at the Guild Secondhand bookshop (second floor, Guild Village), which is located on campus.
  • Contact hours provide an indication of the type and extent of in-class activities this unit may contain. The total amount of student work (including contact hours, assessment time, and self-study) will approximate 150 hours per 6 credit points.