The Rochester school: The origins of positive political theory

S. M. Amadae, Bruce Bueno De Mesquita

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    The Rochester school of political science, led by William H Riker, pioneered the new method of positive political theory. Positive political theory, or rational choice theory, represents the attempt to build formal models of collective decision-making processes, often relying on the assumption of self-interested rational action. This method has been used to study such political processes as elections, legislative behavior, public goods, and treaty formation and diplomatic strategy in international relations. In this article, we provide a retrospective account of the Rochester school, which discusses Riker's theoretical synthesis and his institution building in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. We discuss some of the most important Rochester school contributions related to spatial models of voting, agenda setting, structure-induced equilibria, heresthetics, game theory, and political theory. We also briefly situate positive political theory within the larger context of political science and economics.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)269-295
    Number of pages27
    JournalAnnual Review of Political Science
    StatePublished - 1999


    • Decision making
    • Game theory
    • Rational choice
    • Spatial models

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Sociology and Political Science


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