EMREAS 13 Study Guide - Final Guide: Voting Paradox, The Dilemma, Methodological Individualism

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26 Jun 2018
Spring 2016
Course Web Page: https://canvas.harvard.edu/courses/7907
Kenneth Shepsle (kshepsle@iq.harvard.edu)
Institute of Quantitative Social Science & Department of Government
CGIS North 312
Office Hours: Thursday 1-3 or by appointment
Teaching Fellows:
Soeren Henn (henn@fas.harvard.edu)
Chris Lucas (lucas.christopherd@gmail.com)
General Comments
This course surveys approaches to and models of politics based on the rational-actor paradigm.
The underlying theme of the course is that politics may be described and understood in terms of
rational, goal-seeking behavior by individuals in various institutional contexts. This approach
explains a broad range of political phenomena, provides non-obvious insights, illuminates a
number of paradoxes and puzzles, and (hopefully) encourages the student to think deeply and
with sophistication about current events, history, and both public and private political life
generally. The main emphasis is on providing tools and approaches for analyzing political events
and phenomena.
The lessons of the rational-choice approach apply to private politics as well as to public politics –
to office and workplace politics and the politics of families, clubs, Harvard houses, university
departments, churches, and firms, as well as to the public politics of legislatures, courts,
bureaucracies, elections, parties, and interest groups.
The course is arranged into one organizational session, approximately 20 lectures by me, and 8 or
9 section meetings. Lectures are given two times weekly, lasting one hour each. They are
arranged into four main subjects: individual choice, group choice, collective action, and
institutions. Sections meet on many of the weeks of the term. Sections will focus on four
principal tasks: controversies, experiments, general discussions, and examination reviews.
Student performance is judged on the basis of the following activities: (1) an in-class midterm
examination on Thursday, March 10 (35%); (2) section participation + experimental performance
(20%); (3) a 1000-word paper on one of the “controversies” defined below (10%); and (4) either
a 3000- word paper due on Thursday, May 5, or an in-class final examination scheduled by the
College that day (35%). The midterm will cover materials through the lectures on collective
action. The final paper, if you choose this option, may either be an elaboration of the shorter
paper or an entirely new one; it should be discussed with and approved in advance by your TF.
Section Participation
Section participation is extremely important in this course. We will make section assignments on
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Friday, January 29. On three such occasions the student will participate in a group social science
experiment that illustrates some of the principles with which we shall be concerned during the
semester. Three other section meetings will be devoted to selected controversies, applying the
lessons of the lecture and specific reading material to controversial issues. Finally,
discussion/review meetings of section will be scheduled for just before the midterm and final
examinations. Most weeks, section will last only an hour. The experimental sessions may take up
the full hour and a half.
All readings should be done during the week indicated since they are keyed to lecture materials.
Some of the readings serve as broad background for the lectures; others explicitly cover lecture
materials; still others are assigned for specific section meetings. The books are available at the
COOP. The other materials will be made available through electronic links on the syllabus or on-
line on the course web page. The books for purchase are:
Riker, Liberalism Against Populism
Riker, The Art of Political Manipulation
Shepsle, Analyzing Politics, 2nd EDITION
Bianco, American Politics: Strategy and Choice
Laver, Playing Politics: The Nightmare Continues (on course web site)
The books by Bianco, Laver, and Riker (The Art…) are collections of stories, vignettes, and
experiments; their contents are distributed throughout the syllabus. The other book by Riker
(Liberalism…) and the one by Shepsle will serve as texts for the course.
On a number of occasions during section meetings, students will participate in social science
experiments. In each experiment, students, depending on their play and that of their classmates,
will win “points.” These points will add up during the semester and students will be rank ordered
in terms of total points. Those in the top 40% will have his or her section participation grade
incremented by one grading level, e.g., B+ to A-.
There will be three “controversy” discussions in section. Before the first one, the student must
indicate to his or her TF on which one of the three controversies he or she will play a leadership
role in discussion. By the Monday before the date of that session, he or she will turn in a memo
no longer than a page to the TF, outlining the major issues to be emphasized during discussion.
A list of bullet points is fine. The TF will use these memos (several students will write them for
each discussion) to organize the session. These memos serve an additional function for the
student. They will serve as a preliminary outline for a 1000-word paper elaborating on the themes
of the controversy. That paper is to be turned in to the TF the following week (so that the student
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