IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Forming stable coalitions: The process matters


  • Steven Brams


  • Michael Jones
  • D. Kilgour


Players are assumed to rank each other as coalition partners. Two processes of coalition formation are defined and illustrated: Fallback (FB): Players seek coalition partners by descending lower and lower in their preference rankings until some majority coalition, all of whose members consider each other mutually acceptable, forms. Build-up (BU): Same descent as FB, except only majorities whose members rank each other highest form coalitions. BU coalitions are stable in the sense that no member would prefer to be in another coalition, whereas FB coalitions, whose members need not rank each other highest, may not be stable. BU coalitions are bimodally distributed in a random society, with peaks around simple majority and unanimity; the distributions of majorities in the US Supreme Court and in the US House of Representatives follow this pattern. The dynamics of real-life coalition-formation processes are illustrated by two Supreme Court cases. Copyright Springer Science + Business Media, Inc. 2005

Suggested Citation

  • Steven Brams & Michael Jones & D. Kilgour, 2005. "Forming stable coalitions: The process matters," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 125(1), pages 67-94, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:pubcho:v:125:y:2005:i:1:p:67-94
    DOI: 10.1007/s11127-005-3410-y

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version below or search for a different version of it.

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. repec:spr:grdene:v:10:y:2001:i:4:d:10.1023_a:1011252808608 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Antonio Romero-Medina & Katari´na Cechlárová, 2001. "Stability in coalition formation games," International Journal of Game Theory, Springer;Game Theory Society, vol. 29(4), pages 487-494.
    3. Steven J. Brams & Michael A. Jones & D. Marc Kilgour, 2002. "Single-Peakedness and Disconnected Coalitions," Journal of Theoretical Politics, , vol. 14(3), pages 359-383, July.
    4. Greenberg Joseph & Weber Shlomo, 1993. "Stable Coalition Structures with a Unidimensional Set of Alternatives," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 60(1), pages 62-82, June.
    5. Steven J. Brams & D. Marc Kilgour, 2001. "Fallback Bargaining," Group Decision and Negotiation, Springer, vol. 10(4), pages 287-316, July.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Annelies de Ridder & Agnieszka Rusinowska, 2008. "On Some Procedures of Forming a Multipartner Alliance," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 17(2), pages 443-487, June.
    2. Eklund, Patrik & Rusinowska, Agnieszka & De Swart, Harrie, 2007. "Consensus reaching in committees," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 178(1), pages 185-193, April.
    3. Geir Asheim & Carl Claussen & Tore Nilssen, 2006. "Majority voting leads to unanimity," International Journal of Game Theory, Springer;Game Theory Society, vol. 35(1), pages 91-110, December.
    4. Steven Brams & D. Kilgour, 2013. "Kingmakers and leaders in coalition formation," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 41(1), pages 1-18, June.
    5. Annelies De Ridder & Agnieszka Rusinowska & Elena Saiz & Eligius M.T. Hendrix, 2008. "Coalition formation: the role of procedure and policy flexibility," Post-Print halshs-00269093, HAL.
    6. Manfred J. Holler & Stefan Napel, 2004. "Monotonicity of power and power measures," Theory and Decision, Springer, vol. 56(2_2), pages 93-111, February.
    7. Steven Brams & Gustavo Camilo & Alexandra Franz, 2014. "Coalition formation on the U.S. Supreme Court: 1969–2009," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 158(3), pages 525-539, March.
    8. Tom Blockmans & Marie-Anne Guerry, 2016. "Coalition Formation Procedures: The Impact of Issue Saliences and Consensus Estimation," Group Decision and Negotiation, Springer, vol. 25(3), pages 481-499, May.
    9. repec:spr:grdene:v:22:y:2013:i:3:d:10.1007_s10726-011-9276-0 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Wasowicz Pawel, 2014. "Identifying and ascribing the relative significance of introduction pathways for non-native plants into Iceland," Environmental & Socio-economic Studies, De Gruyter Open, vol. 2(4), pages 28-37, December.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • C78 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Bargaining Theory; Matching Theory


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:kap:pubcho:v:125:y:2005:i:1:p:67-94. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Sonal Shukla) or (Rebekah McClure). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.