Linking Strategic Interaction and Bargaining Theory. The Harsanyi - Schelling Debate on the Axiom of Symmetry
This paper analyses the early contributions of John Harsanyi and Thomas C. Schelling to bargaining theory. In his work, Harsanyi (1956) draws Nash’s solution to two-person cooperative games from the bargaining model proposed by Zeuthen (1930). Whereas Schelling (1960) proposes a multi-faceted theory of conflict that, without dismissing the assumption of rational behaviour, points out some of its paradoxical consequences. Harsanyi and Schelling’s contrasting views on the axiom of symmetry, as postulated by Nash (1950), are then presented. The analysis of this debate illustrates that, although in the early 1960s two different approaches to link strategic interaction and bargaining theory were proposed, only Harsanyi’s insights were fully developed later. Lastly, the causes of this evolution are assessed.
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