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Vermuele on Schwartzberg

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My copy of this book arrived in the mail yesterday, and this enthusiastic review from Adrian Vermeule in TNR suggests I made a wise choice:

Schwartzberg studies collective decision-making in the wild, rather than studying the theory of social choice on a blackboard. She is a field anthropologist of voting theory, although her fields of research are not usually contemporary but principally historical—ranging from Homeric assemblies to ancient Sparta, classical Athens, the medieval Church, and post-Enlightenment constitutional assemblies.

Schwartzberg’s approach gives her work a methodological unity and a distinctive flavor, apparent both here and in her earlier book on the relationship between democracy and constitutional change. But the important thing is that the historically embedded approach to collective decision-making bears fruit. The historical inflection of social choice is not only interesting in its own right, it also enables the theorist to understand the genesis, the consequences, and the political and social function of voting rules in a richer way than blackboard social choice theory can offer. Schwartzberg’s new book, whose foreground topic is supermajority rule, is an extended illustration of the returns from studying social choice 
in the wild.

Consider this post a commitment to review this for the blog. I invite readers and co-bloggers to harass and mock me if I fail to follow through in the next few months.

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