Markets, Productivity, and Happiness in a Historical Perspective

Setting the stage for disciplinary transformations.
The Case of the University of Rochester in the 1960s

Damiani Gianluca, University of Turin-University of Florence

The aim of this paper is twofold. First, to present a historical narrative of how political scientist William H. Riker, and renowned mathematical economist Lionel W. McKenzie, established political science and economics departments at the University of Rochester in the 1960s. Thanks to their efforts, Rochester evolved from a minor regional University to a U.S. leading research institution regarding economics and political science. Riker transformed American political science, establishing a theory-driven, formal approach labeled "Positive Political Theory" centered around game theory and rational choice. In this process, the closeness with McKenzie's economics certainly influenced Riker's ability to expand his theoretical agenda. However, the closeness between Riker and McKenzie cannot be overemphasized. In particular, Riker interpreted economics as a 'role model' for political science. However, his idea of economics remained seemingly different from the Postwar mathematical economists' view. Therefore, this points to two interesting issues: how 'imperialistic' has been economics regarding the development of 'positive political theory.' And how this can provide new insights about the role of the 'local dimension' in the history of economics.

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Keywords: Game Theory, Political Science, Positive Political Theory, William H. Riker, Lionel W. McKenzie

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