One chief objection to this assumption is the issue of uncertainty: future states of the world are not predictable because of the complexity of situations in which decisions are made; unforeseeable effects of interactions; genuine novelty brought about by unpredictable innovations; and the contingency of other actors’ choices. Particularly in situations of rapid economic change or crises (Bronk 2009, 2015), which are characteristic of modern capitalism, uncertainty prevails.
This objection to rational actor theory differs from those in the sociological tradition, whose critiques are based in the fact that some decisions in the economy are “nonrational”; that is, based on habit and routines, inconsistent, or normatively oriented toward goals other than the maximization of utility or profit (Beckert 2002). While routines, mistakes, and value- rational action also play an undeniable role in con temporary economies (Beckert 2002; Camic 1986; Etzioni 1988), they are of limited significance if our goal is to understand an economic system that legitimizes utility maximization and socializes its actors accordingly. Instead, if actors intend to maximize what they understand as utility, and that they consider their goals, means, and conditions for action accordingly, their decisions must be based on expectations of presumed outcomes.
Expectations are understood here as the value economic agents assume a given variable will have in the future (see also R. Evans 1997: 401). Rational actor theory does not fail because actors do not wish to maximize their utility, but because it is unable to address the consequences of genuine uncertainty.