Monday, December 24, 2012

New Book: "Democratic Reason" by Hélène Landemore

Democratic Reason
Politics, Collective Intelligence, and the Rule of the Many

by Hélène Landemore

(Princeton University Press, 2012)

288 pages



Individual decision making can often be wrong due to misinformation, impulses, or biases. Collective decision making, on the other hand, can be surprisingly accurate. In Democratic Reason, Hélène Landemore demonstrates that the very factors behind the superiority of collective decision making add up to a strong case for democracy. She shows that the processes and procedures of democratic decision making form a cognitive system that ensures that decisions taken by the many are more likely to be right than decisions taken by the few. Democracy as a form of government is therefore valuable not only because it is legitimate and just, but also because it is smart.
Landemore considers how the argument plays out with respect to two main mechanisms of democratic politics: inclusive deliberation and majority rule. In deliberative settings, the truth-tracking properties of deliberation are enhanced more by inclusiveness than by individual competence. Landemore explores this idea in the contexts of representative democracy and the selection of representatives. She also discusses several models for the "wisdom of crowds" channeled by majority rule, examining the trade-offs between inclusiveness and individual competence in voting. When inclusive deliberation and majority rule are combined, they beat less inclusive methods, in which one person or a small group decide. Democratic Reason thus establishes the superiority of democracy as a way of making decisions for the common good.

Contents [preview]

Prologue [pdf]
1. The Maze and the Masses
2. Democracy as the Rule of the Dumb Many?
3. A Selective Genealogy of the Epistemic Argument for Democracy
4. First Mechanism of Democratic Reason: Inclusive Deliberation
5. Epistemic Failures of Deliberation
6. Second Mechanism of Democratic Reason: Majority Rule
7. Epistemic Failures of Majority Rule: Real and Imagined
8. Political Cognitivism: A Defense
Conclusion: Democracy as a Gamble Worth Taking

Hélène Landemore is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Yale University. She is co-editor (with Jon Elster) of "Collective Wisdom.Principles and Mechanisms" (Cambridge University Press, 2012). See my post on the book here (with links to all the papers).

Papers by Hélène Landemore:
* "Why the Many Are Smarter than the Few and Why It Matters"
* "Deliberation and Disagreement" (with Scott E. Page)
* "Talking it Out: Deliberation with Others Versus Deliberation Within" (with Hugo Mercier)
* "Collective Wisdom: Old and New"
* "How to Make Democracy Smarter"
* "Democratic Reason and Distributed Intelligence"
* "Democratic Reason: the Mechanisms of Collective Intelligence in Politics" (also: video)
* "Deliberation, Cognitive Diversity, and Democratic Inclusiveness"
* "Majority Rule and the Wisdom of Crowds"

See a short interview with Hélène Landemore on her new book here.

(Thanks to Reza Javaheri for the pointer!)

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