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Social Choice Theory

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Full-Text Articles in Political Science

Collective Choice, Justin Schwartz Jan 2011

Collective Choice, Justin Schwartz

Justin Schwartz

This short nontechnical article reviews the Arrow Impossibility Theorem and its implications for rational democratic decisionmaking. In the 1950s, economist Kenneth J. Arrow proved that no method for producing a unique social choice involving at least three choices and three actors could satisfy four seemingly obvious constraints that are practically constitutive of democratic decisionmaking. Any such method must violate such a constraint and risks leading to disturbingly irrational results such and Condorcet cycling. I explain the theorem in plain, nonmathematical language, and discuss the history, range, and prospects of avoiding what seems like a fundamental theoretical challenge to the possibility ...


Functional Explanation And Metaphysical Individualism, Justin Schwartz Jan 1993

Functional Explanation And Metaphysical Individualism, Justin Schwartz

Justin Schwartz

A number of (present or former) analytical Marxists, such as Jon Elster, have argued that functional explanation has almost no place in the social sciences. (Although the discussion is framed in terms of a debate among analytical Marxists, the point is quite general, and Marxism is used for illustrative purposes.) Functional explanation accounts for what is to be explained by reference to its function; thus, sighted organism have eyes because eyes enable them to see. Elster and other critics of functional explanation argue that this pattern of explanation is inconsistent with "methodological individualism," the idea, as they understand it, that ...