Speaker: Shaun White (PhD student, Department of Mathematics)
Topic: William Riker’s “Liberalism Against Populism”
When: 2:30-3:30, Tuesday 15 October
Where: Room 5115, OGGB

I will give an overview of William Riker’s “Liberalism Against Populism”. William Riker was a hugely influential political scientist. His “Liberalism Against Populism” (1982) is often said to be his seminal work. In it, Riker explores the implications of social choice theory for the theory of democracy. He argues that there are two ways to interpret voting. According to the liberal interpretation we vote merely to restrain elected officials. According to the populist interpretation we vote so that we can establish the general will of the electorate. Riker claims that the results of social choice theory imply that we must reject the populist interpretation. I will outline Riker’s reasoning. I will also discuss the very robust response made by Gerry Mackie (Democracy Defended, 2003).

Slides are available.