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Expressive Political Behaviour: Foundations, Scope and Implications


A growing literature has focused attention on ‘expressive’ rather than ‘instrumental’ behaviour in political settings, particularly voting. A common criticism of the expressive idea is that it is ad hoc and lacks both predictive and normative bite. No clear definition of expressive behaviour has gained wide acceptance yet, and no detailed understanding of the range of foundations of specific expressive motivations has emerged. This article provides a foundational discussion and definition of expressive behaviour accounting for a range of factors. The content of expressive choice – distinguishing between identity-based, moral and social cases – is discussed and related to the specific theories of expressive choice in the literature. There is also a discussion of the normative and institutional implications of expressive behaviour.

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Geoffrey Brennan and Loren Lomasky , Democracy and Decision (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993)

Dennis C. Mueller , Public Choice III (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003)

Geoffrey Brennan and Alan Hamlin , Democratic Devices and Desires (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000)

George A. Akerlof and Rachel E. Kranton , Identity Economics: How Our Identities Shape Our Work, Wages, and Well-Being (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2010)

Geoffrey Brennan and Philip Pettit , The Economy of Esteem: An Essay on Civil and Political Society (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004)

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Arye L. Hillman , Public Finance and Public Policy: Responsibilities and Limitations of Government (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009)

Gordon Tullock , The Economics of Special Privilege and Rent Seeking (Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1989)

James M. Buchanan and Gordon Tullock , The Calculus of Consent (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1962)

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British Journal of Political Science
  • ISSN: 0007-1234
  • EISSN: 1469-2112
  • URL: /core/journals/british-journal-of-political-science
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