Modern Classics in Social Choice Theory
MSc Logic - Project June 2009

Stéphane Airiau
, Ulle Endriss, Umberto Grandi, and Daniele Porello (contact)


Social choice theory, as the political scientist William H. Riker puts it, is "the description and the analysis of the way that the preferences of individual members of a group are amalgamated into a decision of the group as a whole". The problem of aggregating individual preferences into a collective choice was already made explicit by Condorcet's voting paradox in the 18th century, but it is the seminal work of Arrow of 1950 that is usually considered the starting point of modern reflection on collective choice. Arrow investigated the problem of aggregation in mathematical terms and stated the normative conditions on the aggregation rule by means of axiomatic definitions. The formal concepts introduced by Arrow opened up a research line which helped to refine the notion of fairness or efficiency of an aggregation procedure, stating results which deeply influenced political theory and economics: for instance, the characterisation of majority voting, the condition on manipulability of a voting procedure, or the conditions for avoiding Condorcet cycles in majority voting. Recently, the problems raised by social choice theory have been also investigated from the point of view of logic and computation (in computational social choice). The aim of this course is to get familiar with some of the most important contributions to social choice theory in the second part of the 20th century. We will do this by reading and discussing the original articles, in order to give students a flavour of the framework in which those results were initially formulated.

The project is particularly suitable for those who have already taken a relevant course, such as Computational Social Choice or Cooperative Games, but open to all interested students.

Each student will present two of the selected articles and write a short essay at the end of the course. Participation in the discussions will form part of the assessment.

The Classics

Below is the list of the papers we will cover: 

  • Slides of the first meeting.
  • Friday 5 June at 11:00: Stefan Eichinger on Arrow (1950). Slides
  • Friday 5 June at 14:00: Charlotte Vlek on Black (1948). Slides
  • Tuesday 16 June at 11:00: Kian Mintz-Woo on Sen (1966). Slides
  • Tuesday 16 June at 14:00: Casper Storm Hansen on May (1954). Slides
  • Thursday 18 June at 11:00: Christian Geist on Sen (1970). Slides
  • Tuesday 23 June at 11:00: Charlotte on Gibbard (1973). Slides
  • Tuesday 23 June at 14:00: Stefan on Satterthwaite (1975). Slides
  • Friday 26 June at 11:00: Christian on Duggan and Schwartz (2000). Slides
  • Monday 29 June at 11:00: Kian on Clarke (1971). Slides
  • Monday 29 June at 14:00: Casper on Groves (1973). Slides