Game Theory: A critical text

This book started life as the second edition of an earlier one, also written in collaboration with Shaun Hargreaves-Heap (of the University of East Anglia), published back in 1995. The latter was entitled Game Theory: A critical introduction.

Around 2000 we started working on a second edition, following the unexpected success of the 1995 effort. However, as the writing continued, we realised that we were, in effect, writing a totally new book; one that shared very few passages with the 1995 edition (and was much longer and more comprehensive to boot). To make this clear, we effected a subtle but important change in the subtitle: The 2004 edition is referred to as a Text, in contrast to the 1995 one which was a ‘mere’ Introduction. Below you can read the Preface of the 2004 text, followed by the table of contents. Individual chapters are downloadable by pressing on the relevant chapter title below (the versions available are pre-production drafts – not the final copy as it appears in the book)

For the relevant Amazon page click here. For Routledge’s own order page click here.

GAME THEORY: A Critical Text

PREFACE

As ever there are people and cats to thank. Some have left us, others have joined in, all are crucial players in our minds. There is also on this occasion electronic mail. Separated by oceans, endless landmasses, and the odd desert, we could not have written this book otherwise.

Its genesis goes back to a time in the eighties when we were colleagues at the University of East Anglia, Norwich, where game theory had become the object of interdisciplinary scrutiny. Both of us had been toying with game theory in an idiosyncratic way (see SHH’s 1989 and YV’s 1991 books) and it was a matter of time before we did it in an organised manner. The excuse for the book developed out of some joint work we did in Sydney in 1990, where YV had sought refuge (from Maggie’s England) and SHH was visiting (on a year’s ‘release’). During this gestation period a number of colleagues played an important role in helping us see the trees from the forest and guided us around many pitfalls. The late Martin Hollis was one of them and we miss him dearly.

The first draft of this book took shape in various cafeterias in Florence during YV’s visit to Europe in 1992 and matured on beaches and in restaurants during SHH’s second visit to Sydney in 1993. For the next two years, the email wires between Sydney and Norwich, or wherever they are, were rarely anything other than warm to hot. When the first edition of this book came out in 1995, we blamed the Internet for all errors. On viewing the galley proofs of the first edition, the uncertainty of our feelings about the whole enterprise was such that we almost fell out.

The actual reception was far more gratifying than at least one of us had imagined. Many social theorists, from distant lands and near, wrote in appreciation. It is they, and Rob Langham (our indefatigable Routledge editor), who must be blamed entirely for this new effort. Had their reaction not been as heart warming, we doubt we would have found the energy to go back to the drawing board. For this is precisely what we did: While maintaining the original book’s style and philosophy, we started from scratch, only occasionally plundering the first edition. Help came our way from two quarters: The Australian Research Council which funded the experimental work referred to in Chapters 6&7, and EUSSIRF which funded YV’s research at the LSE Library in 2002.

The current book’s creation coincided with YV’s latest migration, this time to his native Greece and to hitherto unknown administrative chores. It also coincided with SHH going ‘native’ at East Anglia; namely, becoming that University’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor. Evidently, unlike the first edition, this one did not come of age on golden Antipodean beaches or in Florentine cafeterias. We hope we succeeded in concealing this sad reality in the pages that follow.

It is natural to reflect on whether the writing of a book exemplifies its theme. Has the production of these two books been a game? In a sense it has. The opportunities for conflict abounded within a two-person interaction which would have not generated this book unless strategic compromise was reached and co-operation prevailed. In another sense, however, this was definitely no mere game. The point about games is that objectives and rules are known in advance. The writing of a book (let alone two in succession, and on the same subject) is a different type of game, one that game theory does not consider. It not only involves moving within the rules, but also requires the ongoing creation of the rules. And if this were not enough, it involves the ever-shifting profile of objectives, beliefs and concerns of each author as the writing proceeds. Our one important thought in this book is that game theory will remain deficient until it develops an interest in games like the one we experienced while writing this book over the last ten years or so. Is it any wonder that this is A Critical Text?

Lastly, there are the people and the cats: Empirico, Joε, Lindsay, Margarita, Pandora, Thibeau and Tolstoy – thank you.

Yanis Varoufakis and Shaun Hargreaves-Heap, July 2003

Chapter 1: OVERVIEW

1.1 INTRODUCTION

1.1.1 Why study game theory?
1.1.2 What is game theory?
1.1.3 Why this book?
1.1.4 Why a second edition?

1.2 THE ASSUMPTIONS OF GAME THEORY

1.2.1 Individual action is instrumentally rational
1.2.2 Common knowledge of rationality
1.2.3 Common priors
1.2.4 Action within the rules of the game

1.3 LIBERAL INDIVIDUALISM, THE STATE AND GAME THEORY

1.3.1 Methodological individualism
1.3.2 Game theory’s contribution to liberal individualism

1.4 A GUIDE TO THE REST OF THE BOOK

1.4.1 Three classic games: Hawk-dove, Co-ordination and the Prisoner’s
Dilemma
1.4.2 Chapter-by-chapter guide

1.5 CONCLUSION

Chapter 2: THE ELEMENTS OF GAME THEORY

2.1 INTRODUCTION
2.2 THE REPRESENTATION OF STRATEGIES, GAMES AND INFORMATION SETS

2.2.1 Pure and mixed strategies
2.2.2 The Normal Form, the Extensive Form and the Information Set

2.3 DOMINANCE REASONING

2.3.1 Strict and weak dominance
2.3.2 Degrees of common knowledge of instrumental rationality

2.4 RATIONALISABLE BELIEFS AND ACTIONS

2.4.1 The successive elimination of strategically inferior moves
2.4.2 Rationalisable strategies and their connection with Nash’s equilibrium

2.5 NASH EQUILIBRIUM

2.5.1 John Nash’s beautiful idea
2.5.2 Consistently aligned beliefs, the hidden Principle of Rational Determinacy and the Harsanyi-Aumann Doctrine
2.5.3 Some Objections to Nash: Part I

2.6 NASH EQUILIBRIUM IN MIXED STRATEGIES

2.6.1 The scope and derivation of Nash equilibria in mixed strategies
2.6.2 The reliance of NEMS on CAB and the Harsanyi doctrine
2.6.3 Aumann’s defence of CAB and NEMS

2.7 CONCLUSION

Chapter 3: BATTLING INDETERMINACY – Refinements of Nash’s equilibrium in static and dynamic games

3.1 Introduction
3.2 THE STABILITY OF NASH EQUILIBRIA

3.2.1 Trembling hand perfect Nash equilibria
3.2.2 Harsanyi’s Bayesian Nash equilibria and his defence of NEMS

3.3 DYNAMIC GAMES

3.3.1 Extensive form and backward induction
3.3.2 Subgame perfection, Nash and CKR
3.3.3 Sequential equilibria
3.3.4 Bayesian learning, sequential equilibrium and the importance of reputation
3.3.5 Signalling equilibria

3.4 FURTHER REFINEMENTS

3.4.1 Proper equilibria
3.4.2 Forward induction

3.4 SOME LOGICAL OBJECTIONS TO NASH, PART III

3.4.1 A critique of subgame perfection
3.4.2 A negative rejoinder (based on the Harsanyi-Aumann doctrine)
3.4.3 A positive rejoinder (based on sequential equilibrium)
3.3.4 Conclusion: Out-of-equilibrium beliefs, patterned trembles and consistency

3.5 CONCLUSION

3.5.1 The status of Nash and Nash refinements
3.5.2 In defence of Nash
3.5.3 Why has game theory been attracted ‘so uncritically’ to Nash?

Chapter 4: BARGAINING GAMES – Rational agreements, bargaining power and the Social Contract

4.1 INTRODUCTION

4.2 CREDIBLE AND INCREDIBLE TALK IN SIMPLE BARGAINING GAMES

4.3 JOHN NASH’S GENERIC BARGAINING PROBLEM AND HIS SOLUTION

4.3.1 The bargaining problem

4.3.2 Nash’s solution – An example

4.3.3 Nash’s solution as an equilibrium of fear

4.3.4 Nash’s axiomatic account

4.3.5 Do the axioms apply?

4.3.6 Nash’s solution – a summary

4.4 ARIEL RUBINSTEIN AND THE BARGAINING PROCESS: The return of Nash backward induction

4.4.1 Rubinstein’s solution to the bargaining problem

4.4.2 A proof of Rubinstein’s theorem

4.4.3 The (trembling hand) defence of Rubinstein’s solution

4.4.4 A final word on Nash, trembling hands and Rubinstein’s bargaining solution

4.5 JUSTICE IN POLITICAL AND MORAL PHILOSOPHY

4.5.1 The negative result and the opening to Rawls and Nozick

4.5.2 Procedures and outcomes (or ‘means’ and ends) and axiomatic bargaining theory

4.6 CONCLUSION

Chapter 5: THE PRISONERS’ DILEMMA – The riddle of co-operation and its implications for collective agency

5.1 INTRODUCTION: THE STATE AND THE GAME THAT POPULARISED GAME THEORY
5.2 EXAMPLES OF HIDDEN PRIOSNERS’ DILEMMAS AND FREE RIDERS IN SOCIAL LIFE
5.3 SOME EVIDENCE ON HOW PEOPLE PLAY THE GAME
5.4 EXPLAINING COOPEATION

5.4.1 Kant and morality: Is it rational to defect?
5.4.2 Altruism
5.4.3 Inequality aversion
5.4.4 Choosing a co-operative disposition instrumentally

5.5 CONDITIONAL CO-OPERATION IN REPEATED PRISONERS’ DILEMMAS
5.5.1 Tit-for-tat in Axelrod’s tournaments
5.5.2 Tit-for-tat as a Nash equilibrium strategy when the horizon is unknown
5.5.3 Spontaneous public good provision
5.5.4 The Folk Theorem, Indeterminacy and the State
5.5.5 Does a finite horizon wreck co-operation? The theory and the evidence

5.6 CONCLUSION: COOPERATION AND THE STATE IN LIBERAL THEORY

5.6.1 Rational cooperation?
5.6.2 Liberalism and the prisoners’ dilemma
5.6.3 The limits of the prisoners’ dilemma

Chapter 6: EVOLUTIONARY GAMES – Evolution, Games and Social Theory

6.1 GAME THEORY’S ENCOUNTER WITH EVOLUTIONARY BIOLOGY
6.1.1 The origins of Evolutionary Game Theory
6.1.2 Evolutionary stability and equilibrium: An introduction
6.1.3 Spontaneous order versus political rationalism

6.2 SYMMETRICAL EVOLUTION IN HOMOGENEOUS POPULATIONS

6.2.1 Static games
6.2.1 Dynamic games

6.3 EVOLUTION IN HETEROGENEOUS POPULATIONS

6.3.1 Asymmetrical (or two-dimensional) evolution and the demise of Nash equilibria in mixed strategies (NEMS)
6.3.2 Does Evolutionary Game Theory apply to humans as well as it does to birds, ants, etc.? An experiment with 2-dimensional evolution in the Hawk-Dove game
6.3.3 Multi-dimensional evolution and the conflict of conventions
6.3.4 The origin of conventions and the challenge to methodological individualism
6.3.5 The politics of mutations: Conventions, inequality and revolt
6.3.6 Discriminatory Conventions: A brief synopsis

6.4 SOCIAL EVOLUTION: POWER, MORALITY AND HISTORY

6.4.1 Social versus natural selection
6.4.2 Conventions as covert social power
6.4.3 The evolution of predictions into moral beliefs: Hume on morality
6.4.4 Gender, class and functionalism
6.4.5 The evolution of predictions into ideology: Marx against morality

6.5 CONCLUSION

Chapter 7: PSYCHOLOGICAL GAMES – Demolishing the divide between motives and beliefs

7.1 INTRODUCTION
7.2 DIFFERENT KINDS OF ‘OTHER REGARDING’ MOTIVES

7.2.1 The ‘other’-regarding motives of Homo Economicus

 7.2.2  Beliefs as predictions and as motives

7.3 THE MOTIVATING POWER OF NORMATIVE BELIEFS

7.3.1 Fairness equilibria
7.3.2 Computing Fairness equilibria
7.3.3 Assessing Rabin
7.3.4 An alternative formulation linking entitlements to intentions
7.3.5 Team thinking

7.4 PSYCHOLOGY AND EVOLUTION

7.4.1 On the origins of normative beliefs: an adaptation to experience
7.4.2 On the origins of normative beliefs: The resentment-aversion versus the subversion-proclivity hypotheses

7.5 CONCLUSION: SHARED PRAXIS, SHARED MEANINGS

POSTSCRIPT

SOLUTIONS TO PROBLEMS

NOTES

AUTHORS’ INDEX

SUBJECT INDEX

REFERENCES

13 thoughts on “Game Theory: A critical text

  1. I was afraid that you will respond as you did based on the kidness you have shown here. I was merely trying to avoid you sending me free copies. I did not mean to annoy you and I apologise if I did.

    The two books are The Global Minotaur and the Game Theory A critical introduction.

    It could be interesting to compare the Minotaur with The Return of Depression Economics and the Crisis of 2008 by P.Krugman (I got this idea after I watched one of your speeches in Texas online)

    On a different issue and on the deflationary nature of Bitcoin which I also consider as one of its major shortcomes I was wondering if one day you can find time to reflect about potential strategies that could reduce the negative impact of this characteristic while enjoying the benefits of its use particularly in S.Europe.

    Thank you for entertaining my requests.

    Have a great weekend
    Panos

  2. Mr. Varoufakis,
    Thank you for your prompt reply and very kind offer. I can not accept a free copy.
    I am trying to download two of your books on my iPad as part of iBooks etc in order to be able to read them during my randomly available spare time.
    Could you please pressure your publicist to consider soft copies as well if they don’t offer that option already? My apologies for insisting on this request. I find your inputs interesting and insightfull and as a fellow economist would like to explore a bit more in depth despite the usual time constraints.
    Have a nice day and thank you again.
    Panos

    • Nope. I shall not bother talking to my publishers if you refuse to tell me which books you are after. Which are the two titles that you are interested in? (I refuse to have you pay prices that I consider inflated.)

  3. Dear Mr. Varoufakis,
    Please let me know where one can purchase soft copies of your books.
    Thank you very much.
    Panos Salapatas

    • Which book(s) are you interested in? I could email you a free (pre-publication) pdf – pre-publication so as not to fall foul of my publisher…

  4. Ενδιαφέρομαι κι εγώ για την ελληνική-βελτιωμένη έκδοση του βιβλίου, αλλά δεν το βρίσκω διαθέσιμο και η τιμή του είναι αρκετά υψηλή.
    Υπάρχει κάποιος τρόπος να το προμηθευτώ και ίσως σε πιο χαμηλή τιμή?

  5. Υπάρχει αυτό το βιβλίο στην Ελλάδα ή μόνο ηλεκτρονικά θα μπορούσα να το παραγγείλω;
    Μήπως επίσης θα μπορούσα να το βρω σε ηλεκτρονική μορφή;

    • Yπάρχει σε ελληνική, βελτιωμένη, μετάφραση: “Θεωρία Παιγνίων: Η θεωρία που φιλοδοξεί να ενοποιήσει τις κοινωνικές επιστήμες”, Εκδόσεις Gutenberg-Δαρδανός, Αθήνα 2007

  6. που μπορώ να βρω αυτό το βιβλίο στην ελληνική αγορά?Η μόνο μέσω ίντερνετ?

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