Menu Adam R Brown

Notes navigation: Browse by titleBrowse by authorSubject index

Tsebelis: Nested games

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.

Tsebelis. 1990. Nested games: Rational choice in comparative politics. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Chapter 6


Models consociationalism as a nested game, in an effort to answer three questions.

  1. Under what strategies can elites pursue accommodating strategies despite their followers' demands for intransigence?
  2. Why would followers continue to reelect elites who continually pursue such strategies?
  3. How do political institutions promote accommodating strategies?



Iterated Game

On unimportant issues, it is an iterated game, since favors today can be traded for favors tomorrow. There are two possible equilbria. First, we might decide to always cooperate on everything. Or, we might decide that we're better off if I always let you win on some issues and you always let me win on other issues.

Under the second equilibrium, INSTITUTIONS might matter. For example, federalism guarantees regional groups complete control over some aspects of policy. Though Tsebelis doesn't discuss it, presumably you could divide up cabinet portfolios to meet a similar goal.

Even without institutions, strategic elites might recognize that their followers care more about an issue thatn another elite's followers do. As such, the first elite might rile up her followers, thus allowing her to credibly commit to intransigence. Since the second elite's followers don't really care about the issue, the second elite gives in.

One-Shot Game

For important issues, it's a one-shot game; neither elite is willing to make a concession in exchange for future concessions. Still, accommodation is possible. For example, the Belgian Egmont Pact was negotiated behind closed doors in strict secrecy. Since the public had no information, elites could play "chicken" (although the masses did have information during the implementation stage).

Research by the same authors

Research on similar subjects


Tsebelis, George (author)Comparative PoliticsVotingGame TheoryDownsian ModelDemocracyConsociationalismMajoritarianism

Wikisum home: Index of all summaries by title, by author, or by subject.