James Madison wrote, 'Had every Athenian citizen been a Socrates, every Athenian assembly would still have been a mob'. The contributors to this volume discuss and for the most part challenge this claim by considering conditions under which many minds can be wiser than one. With backgrounds in economics, cognitive science, political science, law and history, the authors consider information markets, the internet, jury debates, democratic deliberation and the use of diversity as mechanisms for improving collective decisions. At the same time, they consider voter irrationality and paradoxes of aggregation as possibly undermining the wisdom of groups. Implicitly or explicitly, the volume also offers guidance and warnings to institutional designers.
In this new edition of his critically acclaimed book, Jon Elster examines the nature of social behavior, proposing choice as the central concept of the social sciences. Extensively revised throughout, the book offers an overview of key explanatory mechanisms, drawing on many case studies and experiments to explore the nature of explanation in the social sciences; an analysis of the mental states - beliefs, desires, and emotions - that are precursors to action; a systematic comparison of rational-choice models of behavior with alternative accounts, and a review of mechanisms of social interaction ranging from strategic behavior to collective decision making. A wholly new chapter includes an exploration of classical moralists and Proust in charting mental mechanisms operating 'behind the back' of the agent, and a new conclusion points to the pitfalls and fallacies in current ways of doing social science, proposing guidelines for more modest and more robust procedures.
This book presents the most complete set of analytical, normative, and historical discussions of majority decision making to date. One chapter critically addresses the social-choice approach to majority decisions, whereas another presents an alternative to that approach. Extensive case studies discuss majority voting in the choice of religion in early modern Switzerland, majority voting in nested assemblies such as the French Estates-General and the Federal Convention, majority voting in federally organized countries, qualified majority voting in the European Union Council of Ministers, and majority voting on juries. Other chapters address the relation between majority decisions and cognitive diversity, the causal origin of majority decisions, and the pathologies of majority decision making. Two chapters, finally, discuss the counter-majoritarian role of courts that exercise judicial review. The editorial Introduction surveys conceptual, causal, and normative issues that arise in the theory and practice of majority decisions.
This 1989 book is intended as an introductory survey of the philosophy of the social sciences. It is essentially a work of exposition which offers a toolbox of mechanisms - nuts and bolts, cogs and wheels - that can be used to explain complex social phenomena. Within a brief compass, Jon Elster covers a vast range of topics. His point of departure is the conflict we all face between our desires and our opportunities. How can rational choice theory help us understand our motivation and behaviour? More significantly, what happens when the theory breaks down but we still cleave to a belief in the power of the rational? Elster describes the fascinating range of forms of irrationality - wishful thinking, the phenomenon of sour grapes, discounting the future in noncooperative behaviour. This is a remarkably lucid and comprehensive introduction to the social sciences for students of political science, philosophy, sociology and economics.
The contributions in this study present a comprehensive analysis of transitional justice from 1945 to the present. They feature a general theoretical analysis of the processes of retribution and reparation as well as case studies by historians and political scientists who discuss the West European transitions after 1945 and more recent Latin American, East European, and South African transitions to democracy in the 1980s and 1990s. The volume's focus is on retribution against the leaders and agents of the autocratic regime preceding the democratic transition, and on reparation to its victims.
In the spirit of Jeremy Bentham's Political Tactics, this volume offers the first comprehensive discussion of the effects of secrecy and publicity on debates and votes in committees and assemblies. The contributors - sociologists, political scientists, historians, legal scholars - consider the micro-technology of voting (the devil is in the detail), the historical relations between the secret ballot and universal suffrage, the use and abolition of secret voting in parliamentary decisions, and the sometimes perverse effects of the drive for greater openness and transparency in public affairs. The authors also discuss the normative questions of secret versus public voting in national elections and of optimal mixes of secrecy and publicity, as well as the opportunities for strategic behavior created by different voting systems. Together with two previous volumes on Collective Wisdom (Cambridge University Press, 2012) and Majority Decisions (Cambridge University Press, 2014), the book sets a new standard for interdisciplinary work on collective decision-making.
Elster proposes a normative theory of collective decision making, inspired by Jeremy Bentham but not including his utilitarian philosophy. The central proposal is that in designing democratic institutions one should reduce as much as possible the impact of self-interest, passion, prejudice and bias on the decision makers, and then let the chips fall where they may. There is no independently defined good outcome that institutions can track, nor is there any way of reliably selecting good decision makers. In addition to a long initial chapter that surveys theories of collective decision making, notably social choice theory, and a chapter expounding and discussing Bentham's views, historical chapters on the jury, constituent assemblies and electoral systems develop and illustrate the main ideas. This work draws on a welter of case studies and historical episodes, from Thucydides and Plutarch to the present. It is also grounded in psychology, behavioral economics and law.
Drawing on philosophy, political and social theory, decision-theory, economics, psychology, history and literature, Jon Elster's classic book Sour Grapes continues and complements the arguments of his acclaimed earlier book, Ulysses and the Sirens. Elster begins with an analysis of the notation of rationality, before tackling the notions of irrational behavior, desires and belief with highly sophisticated arguments that subvert the orthodox theories of rational choice. Presented in a fresh series livery and with a specially commissioned preface written by Richard Holton, illuminating its continuing importance to philosophical enquiry, Sour Grapes has been revived for a new generation of readers.
This new translation of an undisputed classic aims to be both accurate and readable. Tocqueville's subtlety of style and profundity of thought offer a challenge to readers as well as to translators. As both a Tocqueville scholar and an award-winning translator, Arthur Goldhammer is uniquely qualified for the task. In his Introduction, Jon Elster draws on his recent work to lay out the structure of Tocqueville' argument. Readers will appreciate The Ancien Régime and the French Revolution for its sense of irony as well as tragedy, for its deep insights into political psychology and for its impassioned defense of liberty.
Criminal tribunals, truth commissions, reparations, apologies and memorializations are the characteristic instruments in the transitional justice toolkit that can help societies transition from authoritarianism to democracy, from civil war to peace, and from state-sponsored extra-legal violence to a rights-respecting rule of law. Over the last several decades, their growing use has established transitional justice as a body of both theory and practice whose guiding norms and structures encompasses the range of institutional mechanisms by which societies address the wrongs committed by past regimes in order to lay the foundation for more legitimate political and legal order. In Transitional Justice, a group of leading scholars in philosophy, law, and political science settles some of the key theoretical debates over the meaning of transitional justice while opening up new ones. By engaging both theorists and empirical social scientists in debates over central categories of analysis in the study of transitional justice, it also illuminates the challenges of making strong empirical claims about the impact of transitional institutions. Contributors: Gary J. Bass, David Cohen, David Dyzenhaus, Pablo de Greiff, Leigh-Ashley Lipscomb, Monika Nalepa, Eric A. Posner, Debra Satz, Gopal Sreenivasan, Adrian Vermeule, and Jeremy Webber.
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