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Lindblom: The intelligence of democracy

Disclaimer. Don't rely on these old notes in lieu of reading the literature, but they can jog your memory. As a grad student long ago, my peers and I collaborated to write and exchange summaries of political science research. I posted them to a wiki-style website. "Wikisum" is now dead but archived here. I cannot vouch for these notes' accuracy, nor can I say who wrote them.

Lindblom. 1965. The intelligence of democracy.

In Brief

People can coordinate (a) without anybody coordinating them, (b) without a dominant common purpose, and (c) without rules that fully prescribe their relations to one another. This coordination is called partisan mutual adjustment.

Decision-making structures that are non-centrally coordinated may be more efficient than centrally coordinated decision making by way of mutual adjustment of decision making actors. Decision makers can coordinate with each other without other people coordinating them (i.e. we walk around people by passing on the right, even though nobody tells us to). Coordination through mutual adjustment can be achieved without central management, without a dominant common purpose or interest, and without rules that fully prescribe decision-makers' relations to each other.

Note that these argument conflict substantially with later work on social choice (Arrow, McKelvey, Plott, Shepsle/Weingast).

Research on similar subjects


Lindblom, Charles (author)American PoliticsInstitutions

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