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Equilibrium, Disequilibrium, and the General Possibility of a Science of Politics

Fiorina, Morris P. and Shepsle, Kenneth A. (1980) Equilibrium, Disequilibrium, and the General Possibility of a Science of Politics. Social Science Working Paper, 364. California Institute of Technology , Pasadena, CA. (Unpublished)

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In recent years important theoretical contributions have shown that majority rule is a very badly behaved collective choice mechanism. In the absence of artificial restraints on preferences majority rule processes are almost always in disequilibrium. Moreover, the extent of the disequilibrium is pervasive, as captured by the observation that "anything can happen". What are the implications of such nihilistic results for the study of democratic political processes? Some authors believe that the implications are major, that they in fact preclude the development of a science of politics. Other authors take a more sanguine view. This essay argues that equilibrium notions, as presently formulated, are neither necessary nor sufficient for the development of a scientific study of politics. The newly proved disequilibrium results do suggest a change in the research agenda facing political scientists. The broad outlines of that agenda, and a general strategy for proceeding are discussed.

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Additional Information:This paper has been prepared for the Conference on Political Equilibrium in Honor of William H. Riker, Washington-Hilton, August 27, 1980. The authors acknowledge comments on an earlier draft, ranging from constructive hostility to benign neglect, from: Randall Calvert, John Ferejohn, Robert Parks, Charles Plott, Robert Salisbury, and Barry Weingast. Published as Fiorina, Morris P., and Kenneth A. Shepsle. "Equilibrium, disequilibrium, and the general possibility of a science of politics." Political equilibrium. Springer Netherlands, 1982. 49-64.
Group:Social Science Working Papers
Series Name:Social Science Working Paper
Issue or Number:364
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20171006-143157396
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Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:82184
Deposited By: Jacquelyn Bussone
Deposited On:09 Oct 2017 21:46
Last Modified:03 Oct 2019 18:51

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