Who is Jon Elster?
(and why should I care?)

Click to see Elster's Curriculum Vitae


Jon Elster was born in Norway (22. February, 1940) and educated in Norway and France (Ecole Normale Supérieure). He is currently Robert K. Merton Professor of Social Science at Columbia University, USA. He has published on a wide range of subjects, including the theory of rational choice, Marxism, the methodology of the social sciences, justice, social order and political theory. His main current interest is constitutional theory related to the ongoing changes in Eastern Europe.

The reason why you should care is simply that Jon Elster is one of the leading social scientists in the world today. I suppose you do not want to take my word for it, so I'll give you a few quotes to convince you:

In a review of Elster's book "Ulysses and the Sirens" F. Hahn wrote in Inquiry :
"This ... is a quite outstandingly learned and intelligent analysis of some of the main problems in theories of rational action. Its scope is very wide and it should be read by all who have given thought to its subject."

Or, as Philosophical Books wrote about the same book:
"The importance of this book cannot be doubted. It is perhaps the most exhilarating thing to hit the philosophy of the social sciences since Popper."

Alan Ryan wrote in the New York Review of Books :
"What sets him [Jon Elster] apart from other practitioners in the field, however, is his eye for the larger implications"

Brian Barry , writing in the London Review of Books :
"What makes Elster distinctive is a combination of philosophical acuity and detailed attention to contemporary work in history, the social sciences and cognitive psychology..."

If you are not convinced that Elster is worth reading by now, you might be convinced by the father of modern political philsophy, John Rawls , who claims that Elster is one of the leading normative social scientists in the world today (source: The Norseman).

I hope this is enough to convince you that Elster is worth reading. I also hope that this page is helpful as a guide about which articles and books you should read. Furthermore, the information contained here can be used as a research tool if you are interested in taking a closer look at some of the issues discussed by Elster.

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