Developments in Major Fields of Economics
Edited by Gilbert Faccarello and Heinz D. Kurz
Chapter 36: Social choice
Social choice in its modern guise is a young subject that can be dated back to the end of the 1940s and the beginning of the 1950s in the works of Duncan Black (1948), Kenneth Arrow (1950, 1951) and Georges-Théodule Guilbaud (1952). This is nowadays considered as a rebirth, the (first) birth being generally attributed to Jean-Charles de Borda (1784) and Marie-Jean-Antoine-Nicolas Caritat de Condorcet (1785). However, as will be clear in this entry, there are other earlier precursors. Social choice is concerned with the selection of options on the basis of the opinions of individuals over these options. Note that there is an analogy with the choice by an individual of, say, an object, in the presence of multiple criteria. However, this entry is restricted to the multi-individual framework. The selection procedures have been studied either from a rather abstract point of view or from a more practical point of view. In the former, one considers notions such as aggregation functions, social choice functions and their properties, and in the latter one considers voting rules, voting games, and so on. It is interesting to note that this dichotomy has a historical origin, the abstract aspect being generally associated with the utilitarian tradition from Jeremy Bentham to Abram Bergson and Paul Samuelson, and with welfare economics and the practical aspect being associated with questions related to elections, be they elections in small committees or in larger organizations.
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