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2018 | Book

Morality, Governance, and Social Institutions

Reflections on Russell Hardin

Editors: Thomas Christiano, Ingrid Creppell, Jack Knight

Publisher: Springer International Publishing


About this book

This book reflects on the research and career of political theorist Russell Hardin from scholars of Political Science, Philosophy, Sociology, Economics, and Law, among other disciplines. Contributions address core issues of political theory as perceived by Hardin, starting with his insistence that many of the basic institutions of modern society and their formative historical beginnings can be understood as proceeding primarily from the self-interested motives of the participants. Many of the contributions in this volume struggle with the constraints imposed on political theorizing by the idea of self-interested agents, or homo economicus. Some reject the idea as empirically unfounded. Others try to show that homo economicus is even more versatile than Hardin depicts. And yet others accept the constraints and work within them. But all pay tribute to the lasting intellectual contribution of Russell Hardin and the challenge he poses. The book should appeal to scholars and students interested in collective action, public choice and democracy, moral reasoning and its limits, constitutionalism, liberalism, conventions and coordination, trust, identity politics, social epistemology, and methods in politics philosophy.

Table of Contents

Russell Hardin produced a body of work of great breadth and richness on essential subjects of the social sciences and political and moral philosophy: collective action, trust, utilitarian ethics, groups and conflict, institutions, and knowledge. The volume of output, the engagement with cross-cutting fields of scholarship and myriad subjects, and his at-times conversational mode of analysis make a succinct encapsulation difficult. In this introduction, we give a brief account of three main areas of Hardin’s work: his distinctive take on the moral and political philosophy of utilitarianism, his accounts of collective action and the nature of social life, and his account of the fundamental idea of trust and social capital.
Thomas Christiano, Ingrid Creppell, Jack Knight
The Priority of Social Morality
In a number of works, I have argued that social morality—a system of internalized “social-moral rules”—is fundamental to human social cooperation. Russell Hardin disputed this, arguing instead for the primacy of conventions, based largely on self-interest, in developing cooperative social order. This chapter considers three challenges for my view raised by Hardin. The chapter commences by considering small-scale cooperation; I believe that the evidence indicates that even in very small groups of face-to-face cooperators, the internalization of moral rules is fundamental to their cooperation and cheater suppression. I then consider Hardin’s charge that accounts of social cooperation based on moral rules, in which individuals act on the rules despite their interests, are stuck with invoking a variety of somewhat dubious and weak “claims of moral commitment or shared values through [to] Rawls’s magical ‘addition of the sense of justice and moral sentiment’ to make justice work at a large scale.” I argue that the evidence in support of internalized rule compliance, even in the face of high costs to personal interests, is impressive, and the underlying mechanisms are not mysterious. Lastly, I briefly turn to the fundamental issue of how social morality functions in large-scale settings and, importantly, whether it is largely displaced by formal legal and political institutions.
Gerald Gaus
The aim of this chapter is to apply the analytic apparatus developed in Brennan and Pettit (The Economy of Esteem: An Essay on Civil and Political Society. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2004) for the case of social esteem to the case of self-esteem. The thought is that whereas the standard social case involves actor and observer being different persons, in the self-esteem case the actor and the observer are the same person. Attention is thereby directed to the distinctive features of the actor as an observer of her own ‘performance’ in relevant esteem domains. This ‘reflective’ case raises some interesting questions not just about self-esteem but also about aspects of social esteem that might otherwise be overlooked. On the other hand, the nature of the esteem relation is distinguished from other reflexive attitudes with which it might be confused.
Geoffrey Brennan
The Freedom of the Ancients from a Humean Perspective
David Hume’s theory of social and political order as represented in Russell Hardin’s dual coordination theory seems to conflict with the idea of political liberty as defined in Benjamin Constant’s concept of the ‘liberty of the ancients’. In this chapter, I argue that the apparent tension vanishes once the role of moral approbation in Humes’s theory of the conventional foundation of social and political order is adequately taken into account.
Bernd Lahno
Russell Hardin’s Hobbes
I sketch a reception of Russell Hardin’s critique, appropriation, and creative redeployment of Hobbesian insights. I highlight the central tenets of his rereading of Hobbes as he reconstructs the structure of his arguments to determine their epistemological status within a broader lineage of social-scientific thinking on political order. The result, I suggest, is a critique of Hobbes, that is, an examination of the possibilities and limits of the conceptual framework that grounds his theory of government. In Hardin’s interpretation, Hobbes is characterized as articulating a “holistic normative principle” that justifies mutually advantageous institutions. He is said to subscribe to a welfarist vision of order derived uniquely from self-interest with no prior normative commitment. Finally, his contractarian justification of institutions is rejected as a “lousy theory” that mischaracterizes the structure of the problem of maintaining orderly government.
Paul-Aarons Ngomo
Constitutions as Conventions: A History of Non-reception
Russell Hardin’s theory of constitutions as conventions implies several conclusions that are striking, deep, important, counterintuitive, and very hard to deny. Nevertheless, they have had little influence on the field of political theory. This chapter seeks to explain that through two theses. (1) The theory embarrasses the prevailing schools of political thought (participatory and/or deliberative democracy, “high” or rationalist liberalism, and Cambridge historicism) not just by denying their doctrines but by suggesting the irrelevance of many of their favorite questions. (2) The theory seems, as Hardin presents it, more pessimistic and quietist than it needs to be. This chapter suggests that the theory contains within it under-stressed resources that make room for constant institutional progress and political reform.
Andrew Sabl
Collective Action in America Before 1787
Honoring Russell Hardin’s seminal contributions to the study of collective action, this paper describes several collective action problems faced by the citizens of American colonies and states in the years leading up to 1787, and demonstrates how they occasionally and temporarily managed to overcome them. In particular, the paper considers the cooperative or non-cooperative behavior of colonies and states in three arenas: contributions of soldiers and money in wars; participation in the non-importation, non-exportation, and non-consumption movements directed against Great Britain; and trade relations among the states after independence. I observe that whereas farmers, planters, and artisans were willing to forsake their self-interest, under the influence of quasi-moral or social norms, merchants and politicians were not. Finally, I conclude that cooperation was rooted in the anger and enthusiasm of the first movers, who triggered the conditional cooperation of other citizens, and could easily unravel.
Jon Elster
A Political Theory of Constitutional Democracy: On Legitimacy of Constitutional Courts in Stable Liberal Democracies
My text offers an attempt to justify theoretically the existence of an important pillar of contemporary constitutional democracy: judicial review. Why do Supreme and Constitutional Courts that are not electorally accountable organs have the power to modify and occasionally cancel from the books statutory legislation passed by elected and accountable representatives? The argument presented discusses and questions the standard doctrine of the separation of powers and is based on the foundations of modern political authority as the agency the function of which is to protect and guarantee citizens’ rights.
Pasquale Pasquino
Assessing Constitutional Efficacy: Lessons from Mexico’s Hegemonic Party Era
Assessing the efficacy of a codified constitution has proven to be a very challenging proposition. In this chapter, I aim to contribute to the response to the challenge posed by observational equivalence of different types of motivation to behave in accordance with the constitution. I do so by focusing on a case of constitutional enforcement in Mexico under the authoritarian ruling of the PRI. I argue that understanding when and how constitutions are enforced in authoritarian contexts is interesting and relevant in itself, but also that it can shed fresh analytical light on constitutional efficacy under democratic regimes. Mexico was governed by a hegemonic party system centered in a powerful executive from 1929 to 2000. During these seven decades, the PRI had control over the Administration, the Federal Congress, the states’ Governments, and the Judiciary. The President was the cornerstone of a well-disciplined political system: he was the head of the government and the head of the party. Nevertheless, during this president-centered era, Article 83 of the Constitution that establishes a six-year presidential term without re-election was neither altered nor violated, by any President. Without doubt this constituted a very strong constraint on power on otherwise powerful individuals. Why could presidents neither change Article 83 nor violate it? Was Article 83 efficacious? How can we know? And what lesson can we draw from this case about how to assess constitutional efficacy in general? To answer these questions, I analyze President Miguel Alemán’s (1946–1952) unsuccessful attempt to seek re-election.
Andrea Pozas-Loyo
“Führer befiehl, wir folgen dir!” Charismatic Leaders in Extremist Groups
If we want to understand how extremist group ideologies are established, we have to comprehend the social processes which form the basis of the emergence and distribution of such beliefs. In our chapter, we present an innovative approach to examining these processes and explaining how they function: with the method of computer-based simulation of opinion formation, we develop heuristic explanatory models which help to generate new and interesting hypotheses. The focus is thereby not on individuals and their idiosyncrasies but on the dynamic mutual adaptation of beliefs in a group. These dynamics can produce an incremental establishment of “charismatic” opinion leaders and an increasing radicalization and alienation. A prototype of such a simulation model has produced promising first results which are presented and discussed.
Michael Baurmann, Gregor Betz, Rainer Cramm
Violence and Politics in Northern Ireland: IRA/Sinn Fein’s Strategy and the 2005 Disarmament
Ethnic conflicts have become increasingly common in the world we live in, some of which ultimately result in bloodshed. Russell Hardin’s One for All: The Logic of Group Conflict, published in 1995, offered an alternative view to the prevailing explanations of ethnic conflict as the result of behavior motivated by emotion. Hardin shook up the field by proposing that group identification, conflict, and violence could be understood from a rational choice account. This chapter seeks to analyze the Northern Ireland case from this perspective.
Carolina Curvale
Hardin’s One for All: Insights for Human Rights
This chapter reflects on the implications of Russell Hardin’s analysis of subjective group identification and the logic of group conflict for the work of human rights practitioners. After briefly recalling key elements in Hardin’s argument, the author posits that human rights work, often perceived as an idealistic undertaking, has an underlying strategic logic like that which One for All would lead us to expect. The fundamental goal of human rights work is to change existing societal coordination points in keeping with universalist rights norms. Human rights education seeks to shape the content of the knowledge from which people act, while the law-building approach, and efforts to create enforcement mechanisms including sanctions, work both to consolidate and strengthen rights norms, and to raise the costs of non-compliance. Hardin’s analysis of the dynamics of group conflict also has prescriptive implications for intervening to prevent or end violent conflict, by pointing to institutional and policy changes that have the potential to change the incentives groups face.
Kimberly Stanton
Norm-Supporting Emotions: From Villages to Complex Societies
How do socially imposed rules develop into internalized pro-social codes? In the article “From Bodo Ethics to Distributive Justice”, Russell Hardin discusses one of the central themes of his work: How we “export” social order from a small, insular community to a large, anonymous society. In Bodo’s small village, everyone knows everyone else, interactions are face-to-face, and people live relatively isolated from other communities. In this context, the social norms developed by the community are easily enforceable. But what about large, anonymous societies, where monitoring is difficult and costly and sanctioning transgressions carries a greater risk? When unobserved, only someone with an inner motivation to behave in a socially beneficial way will continue to obey the informal rules. How such an inner motivation develops is a topic of debate in moral philosophy and psychology, especially whether pro-social decisions are a matter of rationality or are driven by emotions. Supporters of the emotional drivers of pro-social behavior argue that anger and empathy play an essential role. In this chapter, we will focus on the role of these emotions in compensatory and sanctioning behavior.
Cristina Bicchieri, Erik Thulin
Morality, Governance, and Social Institutions
Thomas Christiano
Ingrid Creppell
Jack Knight
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