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Miller: Pluralism and social choice

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.

Miller. 1983. Pluralism and social choice. APSR.

In Brief

Miller sees pluralist and social choice approaches as prescribing fundamentally opposite situations as best for democratic "stability": Pluralists (like Truman) want there to be many cross-cutting cleavages in order to ensure that there is no stable majority, thus promoting democratic stability. Social choice theorists want to limit social choice instability, however, leading them to want to limit the number of possible sets of preferences.

Comments and Criticism

Miller has missed something paramount. Pluralists want people to have cross-cutting cleavages when it comes to their preferences on a range of issues. But social choice theorists are looking only at a single issue (with several possible outcomes). Sure, pluralists might like for preferences about the several possible outcomes to be distributed in a cross-cutting manner, and social choice theorists might like to avoid this. But even if social choice theorists want to limit the possible alternatives for a single issue, that doesn't mean they don't want people to have cross-cutting preferences about other issues. And if that's the case, then Miller's argument is moot.

Research on similar subjects


Miller, Nicholas (author)American PoliticsPluralismSocial ChoiceInstitutions

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