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Collective Choice
  • Justin Schwartz

This short piece is a contribution to The Encylopedia of Global Justice (ed. D.K. Chatterjee) (forthcoming from Springer Verlag May 2011). It summarizes the state of reserach on the problem for collective choice discovered by Kenneth Arrow in his Impossibility Theorem. In 1951 Arrow proved that a set of four or five (depending on how one counts them) minimal constraints that seem constitutive of democratic decisionmaking, including nondictatorship and rational consistency, are mutually incompatible. This created the burgeoning field of Social Choice Theory. I explain the problem in nontechnical terms, explore its implications especially for global justice, and review the sixty years of intensive efforts that have been made to dissolve, dismiss, or minimize the significance of the Arrovian result. My conclusion is that all the proposed solutions fail. Arrow's paradox is a serious conceptual and practical problem for democracy in a national an international context. The prospects for a satisfactory solution are dim.

  • Social Chouce Theory,
  • Collective Action,
  • Arrow Theorem,
  • Impossibility Theorem,
  • Democratic Theory,
  • Voting Theory
Publication Date
May, 2011
Citation Information
Justin Schwartz. "Collective Choice" (2011)
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