Classics of Social Choice

Iain McLean and Arnold Urken, Editors
Pioneering contributions to social choice and voting from Pliny to Lewis Carroll


Over the centuries an intriguing collection of thinkers have realized that voting and social choice are not straightforward. Yet despite the work of many distinguished contributors in this area, the subject has only become established in the last few decades. Indeed, many earlier writings were lost and their content forgotten, only to be rediscovered later and then forgotten again. This puzzling saga of intellectual history unfolds in Classics of Social Choice through these original writings. The editors have included recently discovered pieces and other major contributions—newly translated where necessary. The introduction explains who each writer was, locates him in a historical context, and analyzes his argument.

The writings of Roman lawyer and senator Pliny the Younger are included here as are those of Ramon Lull, a medieval mathematician, missionary, mystic, novelist, and poet; Nicolaus Cusanus, the son of a fifteenth-century winegrower who became a cardinal; Jean-Charles de Borda, a naval engineer; the Marquis de Condorcet, a mathematician, politician, feminist, and economist who died in the French revolutionary Terror of 1794; and Charles L. Dodgson, who became famous as Lewis Carroll. All had fundamental insight into voting and what is now called social choice.

It was only in the 1940s and 1950s that the theory of social choice was established by Duncan Black and Kenneth Arrow—whose Nobel Prize in Economics was awarded in part for this work. It is now a large and thriving branch of economics and politics. Classics of Social Choice will interest anyone working in social choice theory as well as students of medieval thought, the Enlightenment, and constitutions.

Praise / Awards

  • "I have gone through Classics of Social Choice and am deeply impressed. I am delighted it is in print."
    —Gordon Tullock

Look Inside


I. General Introduction     1

Part 1. Precursors

2. Pliny the Younger     67
Letter to Titius Aristo, A.D. 105     67

3. Ramon Lull     71
From Blanquerna, Chapter 24, ca. 1283     71

The Art of Elections, 1299     73

4. Nicolaus Cusanus (Niklaus von Kues)     77
From On Catholic Harmony, Book III,
Chapter 37, 1434     77

Part 2. The Golden Age

5. Jean-Charles de Borda     81
On Ballot Votes: Commentary by M.J.A.N.

de Caritat, Marquis de Condorcet, 1784     81

On Elections by Ballot by M. de Borda     83

6. M.J.A.N. de Caritat, Marquis de Condorcet     91
From An Essay on the Application of Analysis to the Probability of Decisions Rendered by a Plurality of Votes, 1785     91

7. Condorcet     113
On the Constitution and the Functions of Provincial Assemblies, 1788     113

8. Condorcet     145
From A Survey of the Principles Underlying the Draft Constitution, 1792     145

9. S. Lhuilier     151
Examinations of the Election Method Proposed . .  [in] France . . . 1793 . . . , 1794      151

10. Joseph Isidoro Morales     197
Mathematical Memoir on the Calculation of Opinion in Elections, 1797    197

11. P.C.F. Daunou     237
A Paper on Elections by Ballot, 1803     237

Part 3. The Nineteenth Century

12. C.L. Dodgson [Lewis Carroll]     279
A Discussion of the Various Methods of Procedure in Conducting Elections, 1873     279

Suggestions as to the Best Method of Taking Votes, Where More than Two Issues Are to Be Voted On, 1874     287

A Method of Taking Votes on More than Two Issues, 1876     288

13. Charles L. Dodgson [Lewis Carroll]     299
The Principles of Parliamentary Representation, 1884     299

14. E.J. Nanson     321

Methods of Election, 1882     321

References     361

Index     369

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 384pp.
  • figures, tables.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 1995
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-10450-5

Add to Cart
  • $94.95 U.S.