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Rousseau's General Will: A Condorcetian Perspective


  • Grofman, Bernard
  • Feld, Scott L.


We identify three basic elements of Rousseau's theory of the general will: (1) there is a common good; (2) citizens are not always accurate in their judgments about what is in the common good; and (3) when citizens strive to identify the common good and vote in accordance with their perceptions of it, the vote of the Assembly of the People can be taken to be the most reliable means for ascertaining the common good. We then show that Condorcet's (1785) model of collective judgment shares these assumptions with Rousseau and that understanding the implications of Condorcet's (1785) “jury theorem†enables us to clarify many of the most obscure aspects of Rousseau's treatment of the general will, including his discussion of the debilitating effects of factions and his confidence in the ability of the Assembly of the People to discern the general will by means of voting.

Suggested Citation

  • Grofman, Bernard & Feld, Scott L., 1988. "Rousseau's General Will: A Condorcetian Perspective," American Political Science Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 82(2), pages 567-576, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:cup:apsrev:v:82:y:1988:i:02:p:567-576_08

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    Cited by:

    1. Scharpf, Fritz W., 1997. "Demokratische Politik in der internationalisierten Ökonomie," MPIfG Working Paper 97/9, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies.
    2. Takuya Sekiguchi & Hisashi Ohtsuki, 2023. "Aggregation of Correlated Judgments on Multiple Interconnected Issues," Group Decision and Negotiation, Springer, vol. 32(1), pages 233-256, February.
    3. Cesar Martinelli & Akihiko Matsui, 1999. "Policy Reversals: Electoral Competition with Privately Informed Parties," Working Papers 9905, Centro de Investigacion Economica, ITAM, revised Jan 2000.
    4. Joseph McMurray, 2017. "Ideology as Opinion: A Spatial Model of Common-Value Elections," American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 9(4), pages 108-140, November.
    5. Melissa Schwartzberg, 2003. "Rousseau on Fundamental Law," Political Studies, Political Studies Association, vol. 51(2), pages 387-403, June.
    6. Duggan, John & Martinelli, Cesar, 2001. "A Bayesian Model of Voting in Juries," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 37(2), pages 259-294, November.
    7. Franz Dietrich, 2004. "Terrorism Prevention: A General Model," Others 0404001, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    8. Scott L. Feld & Bernard Grofman, 1990. "Collectivities as Actors," Rationality and Society, , vol. 2(4), pages 429-448, October.
    9. Munger, Michael C, 2000. "Five Questions: An Integrated Research Agenda for Public Choice," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 103(1-2), pages 1-12, April.
    10. Waheed Hussain, 2009. "No More Lemmings, Please – Reflections on the Communal Authority Thesis," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 88(4), pages 717-728, October.
    11. Rob Barlow, 2022. "Deliberation Without Democracy in Multi-stakeholder Initiatives: A Pragmatic Way Forward," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 181(3), pages 543-561, December.
    12. Jianan Wang, 2021. "Evidence and fully revealing deliberation with non-consequentialist jurors," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 189(3), pages 515-531, December.
    13. Peter Kurrild-Klitgaard & Urs Steiner Brandt, 2021. "The calculus of democratic deliberation," Constitutional Political Economy, Springer, vol. 32(2), pages 165-186, June.
    14. Christian Ganser & Marc Keuschnigg, 2018. "Social Influence Strengthens Crowd Wisdom Under Voting," Advances in Complex Systems (ACS), World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd., vol. 21(06n07), pages 1-23, September.
    15. Toyotaka Sakai, 2017. "Considering Collective Choice: The Route 328 Problem in Kodaira City," The Japanese Economic Review, Japanese Economic Association, vol. 68(3), pages 323-332, September.
    16. Masaki Miyashita, 2017. "Binary Collective Choice with Multiple Premises," Discussion Paper Series DP2017-27, Research Institute for Economics & Business Administration, Kobe University.
    17. Dold, Malte, 2015. "Condorcet's jury theorem as a rational justification of soft paternalistic consumer policies," Discussion Paper Series 2015-07, University of Freiburg, Wilfried Guth Endowed Chair for Constitutional Political Economy and Competition Policy.
    18. Satoshi Kanazawa, 1999. "Using Laboratory Experiments To Test Theories Of Corporate Behavior," Rationality and Society, , vol. 11(4), pages 443-461, November.
    19. Tanguiane, Andranick S., 2022. "Analysis of the 2021 Bundestag elections. 2/4. Political spectrum," Working Paper Series in Economics 152, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Department of Economics and Management.
    20. Scott L. Feld & Bernard Grofman, 1992. "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Cycle? Evidence from 36 Elections," Journal of Theoretical Politics, , vol. 4(2), pages 231-237, April.
    21. Toyotaka Sakai, 2015. "A Search for the General Will in a Spatial Model," The Japanese Economic Review, Japanese Economic Association, vol. 66(2), pages 260-270, June.

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