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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.
An expanded and revised edition of the author's critically acclaimed volume Nuts and Bolts for the Social Sciences. In twenty-six succinct chapters, Jon Elster provides an account of the nature of explanation in the social sciences. He offers an overview of key explanatory mechanisms in the social sciences, relying on hundreds of examples and drawing on a large variety of sources - psychology, behavioral economics, biology, political science, historical writings, philosophy and fiction. Written in accessible and jargon-free language, Elster aims at accuracy and clarity while eschewing formal models. In a provocative conclusion, Elster defends the centrality of qualitative social sciences in a two-front war against soft (literary) and hard (mathematical) forms of obscurantism.
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.
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.
Sour Grapes aims to subvert orthodox theories of rational choice through the study of forms of irrationality. Dr Elster begins with an analysis of the notation of rationality, to provide the background and terms for the subsequent discussions, which cover irrational behaviour, irrational desires and irrational belief. These essays continue and complement the arguments of Jon Elster's earlier book, Ulysses and the Sirens. That was published to wide acclaim, and Dr Elster shows the same versatility here in drawing on philosophy, political and social theory, decision-theory, economics and psychology, as well as history and literature.
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.
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