UCL Uncovering Politics

The Principles of Collective Decision-Making

Episode Summary

How should we think about the basic principles that should govern a society?

Episode Notes

Politics is the process by which we make collective choices – by which we decide how generous the welfare state will be, what kind of education system we will operate, what crimes will be punishable with what penalties, and so on. But what are the basic principles that should guide us in making such choices. How should a society go about making its collective decisions?

That is perhaps the most fundamental question of politics, and it’s a question that is addressed in a magisterial new book published earlier this year by our colleague here in the UCL Department of Political Science, Professor Albert Weale. The book is called Modern Social Contract Theory and across over 400 pages it traces the development of and variants in what has become the dominant approach in contemporary political theory to answering the question of how to make collective decisions. And that approach—the clue is in the title!—is called social contract theory.

Albert joins Alan in this episode to discuss what social contract theory is, what it implies for collective decision-making, and how the theory continues to develop today.

Host: Dr Alan Renwick

Professor Albert Weale

Modern Social Contract Theory