Rationalizing Strategy

Game Theory in Management Pedagogy and Practice

in Social Analysis
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Since the 1980s, game theory has become a standard feature of management school curricula, treated extensively in textbooks and core courses in managerial economics and competitive strategy. It promises a formal and rational set of procedures for formulating decisions in situations of dynamic interaction. I suggest that the appeal, and key symbolic effect of game theory is not due to its actual influence on the decisions reached. Rather, it is due to the reframing of decisions and the contexts in which they are made, in terms of the framework of game theory. When strategic action is formulated and justified in terms of game theory, the theory serves as a kind of sociodicy, a social theory which justifies suffering as a necessary evil. I suggest that the increased appeal of game theory since the 1980s has to do with changes in the social organization and managerial culture of corporations.

Social Analysis

The International Journal of Anthropology

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