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W. H. Riker

(1921—1993)


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(1920–93)

American political scientist, and pioneer of the rational choice study of Federalism, coalition theory, and structure‐induced equilibrium. His most important work, Liberalism against Populism (1982), ranges widely through normative political theory and American political history. He argues that the probability of cycling in a large society, which means that there will be no platform of policies that would not lose a majority vote to some other, renders the idea that the ‘people should rule’, associated with Rousseau and his followers, vacuous. He attributes the stability of American political history since 1865 to the institutions which hide cycling from view, and interprets the Civil War, and the presidential election of 1860 which immediately preceded it, as a case of disequilibrium exploited by the previous losers, who formed the Republican Party on the basis of a new coalition of forces to win in 1860.

Subjects: Politics.


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