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Preferences and Situations

Preferences and Situations: Points of Intersection Between Historical and Rational Choice In.

Ira Katznelson
Barry R. Weingast
Copyright Date: 2005
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 356
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    Preferences and Situations
    Book Description:

    A scholarly gulf has tended to divide historians, political scientists, and social movement theorists on how people develop and act on their preferences. Rational choice scholars assumed that people-regardless of the time and place in which they live-try to achieve certain goals, like maximizing their personal wealth or power. In contrast, comparative historical scholars have emphasized historical context in explaining people's behavior. Recently, a common emphasis on how institutions-such as unions or governments-influence people's preferences in particular situations has emerged, promising to narrow the divide between the two intellectual camps. InPreferences and Situations, editors Ira Katnelson and Barry Weingast seek to expand that common ground by bringing together an esteemed group of contributors to address the ways in which institutions, in their wider historical setting, induce people to behave in certain ways and steer the course of history.

    The contributors examine a diverse group of topics to assess the role that institutions play in shaping people's preferences and decision-making. For example, Margaret Levi studies two labor unions to determine how organizational preferences are established. She discusses how the individual preferences of leaders crystallize and become cemented into an institutional culture through formal rules and informal communication. To explore how preferences alter with time, David Brady, John Ferejohn, and Jeremy Pope examine why civil rights legislation that failed to garner sufficient support in previous decades came to pass Congress in 1964. Ira Katznelson reaches back to the 13th century to discuss how the institutional development of Parliament after the signing of the Magna Carta led King Edward I to reframe the view of the British crown toward Jews and expel them in 1290.

    The essays in this book focus on preference formation and change, revealing a great deal of overlap between two schools of thought that were previously considered mutually exclusive. Though the scholarly debate over the merits of historical versus rational choice institutionalism will surely rage on,Preferences and Situationsreveals how each field can be enriched by the other.

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-333-3
    Subjects: Political Science, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Contributors
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. 1 Intersections Between Historical and Rational Choice Institutionalism
    (pp. 1-24)
    Ira Katznelson and Barry R. Weingast

    Despite their differences, historical and rational choice institutionalism have a good deal more in common as a result of their convergence on institutions than is ordinarily realized. The dissimilar strengths of these “schools” can advance each other’s agendas, some aspects of which have been converging.

    The characteristic ways of working by each group of scholars have generated important advances. Our ambition is not to erase these distinctions but to make the most of them. We believe there is much to gain from mutual engagement, not just better self-critical understanding about features of work that could strengthen each tradition in its...


    • 2 A Cross of Gold, a Crown of Thorns: Preferences and Decisions in the 1896 Democratic National Convention
      (pp. 27-61)
      Richard Bensel

      When the 1896 Democratic National Convention assembled in the second week of July, the delegates anticipated that two very different but equally important decisions would be made. One of these involved the adoption of a party platform for the coming campaign. The platform decision, in turn, was overwhelmingly dominated by a single plank on the monetary standard (whether the party would commit itself to the free coinage of silver). The other decision involved the nomination of a candidate for president.¹

      For some months before the convention assembled, both the delegates and outside observers anticipated that the platform fight would be...

    • 3 Congress and Civil Rights Policy: An Examination of Endogenous Preferences
      (pp. 62-87)
      David W. Brady, John A. Ferejohn and Jeremy C. Pope

      In economics the fundamental methodological starting point is to look for explanation in structure rather than in preferences. Thus in partial equilibrium theories, economists examine comparative statics propositions—descriptions of shifting choices as wealth, prices, or technology change, holding preferences constant. The reason for starting with these parameters is not that preferences are unimportant for the explanation—the overall choice pattern will depend on preferences, after all. But many have argued (or assumed) that not much can be said as to how preferences are likely to change during processes of choice. We think this view is overdrawn. We believe that...

    • 4 “To Give Counsel and to Consent”: Why the King (Edward I) Expelled His Jews (in 1290)
      (pp. 88-126)
      Ira Katznelson

      Edward I resolved to expel his kingdom’s Jews in the early summer of 1290 when parliament was in session. His expulsion order was promulgated on July 18. The exodus began on October 12 and was completed, as the king had ordered, by the end of the month. Disturbed only by minor violence, the Jews set out from England’s southern ports for France, Spain, or Germany. By best estimate, they numbered only two to three thousand, down from a peak of some five thousand, in a population variously estimated in the range of two to three million. During the two centuries...


    • 5 Preference Formation as a Political Process: The Case of Monetary Union in Europe
      (pp. 129-160)
      Peter A. Hall

      Given that social science focuses on building and assessing models that simplify a more complex reality, accusing contemporary political science of being overly simple is hardly a telling criticism. Because they treat some phenomena as problems yet deal with others by assumption, all theories direct our attention toward some issues and obscure others, creating a distinctive “play of light and shadow” we should heed (Jenson 1989). Here I am motivated by a concern that contemporary political science casts too many shadows over the process of preference formation, thus diverting attention from factors crucial to determining political outcomes. By preference formation...

    • 6 Persuasion, Preference Change, and Critical Junctures: The Microfoundations of a Macroscopic Concept
      (pp. 161-184)
      Barry R. Weingast

      The relationship between historical institutionalism (HI) and rational choice institutionalism (RCI) remains unclear, clouded by a range of myths and mutual misunderstandings. My purpose in this chapter is threefold. First is its broad methodological purpose: to show that these methods are not antithetical but complementary. Indeed, I will demonstrate several points of contact between the two approaches and thus that they have much in common. Second is the narrow methodological purpose: to draw on concepts from HI to enrich RCI; notably, to apply the concept of a critical juncture, an important macroscopic principle used by historical institutionalists, in rational choice...

    • 7 Endogenous Preferences About Courts: A Theory of Judicial State Building in the Nineteenth Century
      (pp. 185-216)
      Charles M. Cameron

      National courts in federalist systems face a fundamental and recurring political dilemma: what is their role in relation to state governments and state judiciaries? Putting it more bluntly: who will have power? In many respects, this is the fundamental issue in the law of federal courts.

      From this perspective, the history of federal courts in the United States presents a pretty puzzle: how can we account for the vast expansion of federal judicial power at the expense of the states’?

      That such an expansion occurred is beyond doubt. In the early republic, the jurisdiction of federal courts was severely restricted,...


    • 8 Inducing Preferences Within Organizations: The Case of Unions
      (pp. 219-246)
      Margaret Levi

      Why are some union members—to use Vladimir Lenin’s (1902/1963) terminology—economistic but others commit time and resources to social justice causes that will benefit others as much, if not more, than themselves? Labor unions are important collective action organizations with which members form identifications and grounds for ethical reciprocity (Levi 1997) based on the establishment of a shared normative framework. Unions vary in terms of the preferences and beliefs they encourage or engender among members: business unions tend to induce economistic preferences and social movement unions class consciousness and ideological commitments to the welfare of workers more generally. This...

    • 9 Preference Formation in Transitional Justice
      (pp. 247-278)
      Jon Elster

      Transitional justice refers to the judicial process of coming to terms with the past in the transition from one political regime to another. It includes, notably, trials, administrative and professional purges, restitution of property, and compensation for suffering. Examples of transitions to, or returns to, democracy that have addressed these issues include:

      the demise of the Athenian oligarchs in 411 and again in 403 B.C.

      the restoration of democracy after 1945 in countries occupied by the Germans during World War II

      the return to or introduction of democracy after 1945 in the main Axis countries (Germany, Japan, Italy) and their...

    • 10 What the Politics of Enfranchisement Can Tell Us About How Rational Choice Theorists Study Institutions
      (pp. 279-310)
      James Johnson

      The emergence of democracy arguably is the single most important political phenomenon of the twentieth century.¹ And the right to vote, interpreted rather expansively, is as close to a defining component of contemporary democratic institutions as we might find.² There is now a virtual international consensus that only mental deficiency (however arbitrarily defined) and age afford grounds for restricting the franchise. Indeed, there is no agreement across democracies about whether even prison inmates, nonresidents, or noncitizens can rightly be excluded from the vote (Blais, Massicotte, and Yoshinaka 2001). This is a remarkable if usually flawed, often precarious, and hardly preordained...


    • 11 Combining Institutionalisms: Liberal choices and Political Trajectories in Central America
      (pp. 313-334)
      James Mahoney

      Scholars working in the field of historical institutionalism (HI) have explored how the formation of institutions during critical juncture periods may set countries on long-run paths of development that are not easily reversed (Collier and Collier 1991; Pierson 2000; Thelen 1999). One virtue of these path-dependent arguments is their sensitivity to the causal impact of temporally distant institutions and to the processes through which these institutions affect more contemporary outcomes. A common criticism, however, is that they fail to adequately theorize actor choices. Indeed, HI often treats critical juncture periods as moments of contingency when choices are highly efficacious but...

  9. Index
    (pp. 335-345)