Formal Models of Democracy

Wednesday 20 Apr 2022, 09:00 - Friday 22 Apr 2022, 18:00
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The Erasmus Institute for Philosophy and Economics (Erasmus School of Philosophy, Erasmus University of Rotterdam) and the OZSW study group on Social Choice and Group Dynamics are organising a graduate conference on Formal Models of Democracy, featuring a tutorial by Ulle Endriss (University of Amsterdam) and keynote talks by Hélène Landemore (Yale University) and our own Stefan Wintein and Conrad Heilmann.

This is the third workshop in the ENCODE workshop series, see this page and this one for the two previous workshops.

Theme of the workshop

Formal modelling (decision theory, game theory, social choice theory, agent-based models, formal epistemology) has been and continues to be an important source of insight for political philosophy in general, and democratic theory in particular. Scholars such as David Miller, John Dryzek, and Christian List have argued that democratic deliberation can provide an escape route from Arrovian impossibility results, so that the latter actually motivate, rather than undermine the former. Likewise, Hélène Landemore has drawn on mathematical theorems and agent-based models to argue against epistocracy and representative democracy, and in favour of a lottocratic, deliberative political system. Sean Ingham has similarly argued for the relevance of preference cycles for democratic theory, and introduced a counterfactual account of popular control (using tools from game theory) that can cope with such cycles.


The aim of this graduate workshop is to bring together junior scholars working on formal models and the normative theory of democracy. We specifically welcome contributions that combine both enterprises, or that critically inspect the relation between them. Presentations may but need not address one of the following questions:

  • (How) can deliberation avoid or mitigate impossibilities or inconsistencies revealed by social choice theory or game theory? Does it perhaps face other, equally challenging impossibilities?
  • What is the role of social choice theory in setting up procedures for deliberation or representative democracy?
  • What do mathematical results on group knowledge, opinion dynamics, or collective problem solving imply for the normative theory of democracy?
  • Given that deliberation is supposed to take place in small or mid-sized groups, what counts as a fair representation of citizens in deliberation?
  • How do direct democracy, representative democracy, lottocracy, and epistocracy (i.e., rule by experts) perform in terms of their output? What are suitable models or setups to check epistemic norms for democracy?

We welcome contributions by graduate students and scholars who obtained their PhD after March 1st, 2019. Depending on the number of high-quality submissions received, these junior scholars will have between 30 and 45 minutes (including Q&A) to present their work or research project.

Information for participants:

The programme is available here. In case you would like to participate, please register here. Although the workshop takes place on campus, online participation will be enabled. Zoom links will be made available to participants upon registration.

Funding & organization:

This event is organized at the Erasmus Institute for Philosophy and Economics (Erasmus School of Philosophy, Erasmus University of Rotterdam) by Frederik Van De Putte (EUR), Erica Yu (EUR), Måns Abrahamson (EUR), and Marina Uzunova (Free University of Amsterdam). It is supported by the NWO-funded ENCODE project (VI.Vidi.191.105), by the OZSW through the study group on Social Choice and Group Dynamics, and by CLUE+ (Free University of Amsterdam).


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