Jean-Paul Faguet

Sabbatical Visitor

I am a quantitative political economist who works at the frontier between economics, political science, and (more recently) sociology. My research blends theoretical insights from these fields to generate novel understandings of distinctive aspects of the trajectories of developing economies and societies that elude conventional disciplinary approaches. I then test these ideas using a blend of quantitative and qualitative methods that try to combine nuanced causal explanation with high levels of generality. I’m visiting as part of the Emergent Political Economies research theme, on research sabbatical from the LSE during 2023/24.

My main focus at SFI is ‘The biology and politics of choice in market democracies’. This project seeks to combine insights from neurobiology, politics and economics to understand the explosion of trivial choice in society by building a computational model of choice in a system with heterogeneous producers and consumers. The goal is to explain some of the most powerful pathologies that characterize consumer society today.

During my stay I’ll also be co-organizing, with Jenna Bednar, a working group on “Instrumental Incoherence in Institutional Reform”. We’re preparing a special issue of World Development that seeks to answer the question: Why is there so much institutional reform in the world? This is a deep conundrum that is little acknowledged and less understood. Why are senior politicians so eager to change their institutions? Dominant theories suggest that is not only unlikely but absurd, and yet it’s a common occurrence across all the world’s regions, across developing and developed countries, and in both democracies and autocracies. We seek to understand the prevalence and nature of institutional reform by analyzing the deep incoherence that defines many attempts. Participants are a carefully chosen blend of influential senior figures alongside rising research stars trained in political science, economics, complex systems and diversity, psychobiology, and social and decision sciences.