Rationality and Interpretation: Parliamentary Elections in Early Stuart England

Originally published in The Economic Approach to Politics: A Critical Reassessment of the Theory of Rational Action, 1991
  • John Ferejohn


Ferejohn contrasts two interpretations of English parliamentary “elections” in the early seventeenth century. The “Whig” interpretation, based on the increasing incidence of competition between candidates, is similar to that which we might offer for many elections in contemporary democracies. It focuses on competition between representatives of distinct ideological groupings, each seeking the authority to formulate public policy that supports his personal material interests, which are—presumably—largely shared by other members of his group. The “revisionist” interpretation perceives instead a high degree of consensus among constituencies during this period as to which members of leading families merited parliamentary office. This interpretation further views the activities surrounding many uncontested elections as celebrations of a unified society, whereas occasional competition among candidates represents, in this view, a lamentable breakdown of societal consensus, frequently based on the personal foibles of a particular candidate.


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Copyright information

© Lane Crothers and Charles Lockhart 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • John Ferejohn

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