Psychology and Political History: Why Constitutions tend to be flawed

  • Jon Elster Colegio de Francia
Palabras clave: Constitutions, political history, psychology, economics, interest


This paper has both a substantive purpose and a methodological one. The substantive aim is to document and explain a tendency for political constitutions to be flawed. The methodological aim is to use this particular case to illustrate the relevance of psychology for political history. By “psychology” I shall understand both the writings of moralists and philosophers, from Seneca to Adam Smith, as well as more recent experimental studies. Implicitly, and occasionally explicitly, the argument for the importance of psychology is also an argument against economic models of human behavior as based on the rational pursuit of self-interest. Within limits, those models may explain the behavior of consumers and entrepreneurs, but they have less purchase on the actions of constitution-makers.

Biografía del autor/a

Jon Elster, Colegio de Francia

Ph. D., Universidad de Columbia. Professeur Titulaire