CASBS Director Earns PoliSci’s Riker Prize

Margaret Levi
Margaret Levi
Margaret Levi, the new director of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University, has received the 2014 William H. Riker Prize in Political Science, the University of Rochester Political Science Department announced April 29.

The prize is named after William H. Riker, himself a CASBS fellow perhaps best known for his “positive political theory” which applied the reasoning of mathematical formulas to political events.

As described by the Riker Prize website, the honor recognizes “a sustained research program or coherent collection of published research that has, in the view of the Riker Prize Committee, advanced the scientific study of politics through excellent, theoretically informed study of real-world politics, creative and influential theoretical study of political phenomena, and the productive combination of theory and empirical study.”

Past winners have been John Ferejohn, Samuel Tilden Professor of Law, New York University, in 2012; Howard Rosenthal, professor of politics, New York University, 2010; Elinor Ostrom, Arthur F. Bentley Professor of Political Science, Indiana University, 2008; Barry R. Weingast, Ward C. Krebs Family Professor of Political Science, Stanford University, 2006;  Gary W. Cox, professor of political science, University of California, San Diego, 2004; Norman J. Schofield, William Taussig Professor of Political Economy, Washington University in St. Louis, 2002; and Robert H. Bates, Eaton Professor of the Science of Government, Harvard University, 2000.

Levi will present the Riker Lecture and be honored at a banquet this fall at the University of Rochester. The award, given biennially since 2000, includes a prize of $3,000.

Levi is deeply engaged in research on the relations between government and citizens. Her 1988 book Of Rule and Revenue explores the conditions under which governments are able to achieve quasi-voluntary compliance with taxation. Her cases range from ancient Rome to contemporary Australia. While a fellow at CASBS in 1994, she worked on Consent, Dissent, and Patriotism, which investigates variation in contingent consent with military service. Her most recent book, In the Interest of Others (2013), co-authored with John Ahlquist, explores how organizations provoke member willingness to act beyond material interest.

William H. Riker
William H. Riker
At CASBS in 1993-94, she also worked on the multi-authored Analytic Narratives with Bates, Weingast, Avner Greif and Jean-Laurent Rosenthal, son of Howard Rosenthal. Other CASBS fellows who have received the award are Ferejohn and Schofield.

While at CASBS in 1961, according to University of Rochester professor James Johnson, Riker took early steps in formulating his vision of political science and plans for the Department of Political Science at Rochester – which was to become nationally respected.

A biography of Riker at the National Academies Press quotes the professor describing his tyheories while at CASBS. “I describe the field in which I expect to be working at the Center as ‘formal, positive, political theory. By formal, I mean the expression of the theory in algebraic rather than verbal symbols. By positive, I mean the expression of descriptive rather than normative propositions. … I visualize the growth in political science of a body of theory somewhat similar to . . . the neo-classical theory of value in economics. It seems to be that a number of propositions from the mathematical theory of games can perhaps be woven into a theory of politics. Hence, my main interest at present is attempting to use game theory for the construction of political theory.”

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