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Copyright (c) 2001 by Sage Publications (reprinted by permission)
Arash Abizadeh. "Informational Constraint and Focal Point Convergence: Theoretical Implications of Plurality-Rule Elections for the New Institutionalism." Rationality and Society 13.1 (2001): 99–136.
Article Keywords: new institutionalism; focal points; informational constraint; preference formation; Baha'i faith; elections; rational choice
Plurality-rule national Baha’i elections are an anomaly among democratic elections, providing the opportunity for novel insights into institutional theory: while the pool of candidates consists of several thousand individuals, there are tight institutional constraints on information and communication regarding voters’ preferences – nominations and campaigning are banned. Contrary to the expectations of received rational choice institutional theory, however, no institutional mechanisms facilitating organizational forms such as parties have arisen to yield Pareto-superior outcomes via explicit vote coordination. To address this anomaly, an analytical constrained-information model of Canadian Baha’i elections with endogenous preference formation is used to develop the notion of focal point convergence, and to defend sociological institutionalism’s view of instrumental rationality as socially constructed and only one among several possible cultural meanings that may constitute institutions.
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