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  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: May 2010

2 - What motivates actors?

Summary

As I argued in Chapter 1, electoral reform processes may involve a diverse range of actors. The most important actors in the sorts of reform considered here are politicians and citizens: elected officeholders, those seeking office, party activists, interest group leaders, electoral reform activists, and ordinary citizens. Experts can have an important role in defining options too. In understanding how these actors behave in respect of electoral reform, our first task is to analyse what motivates them – what it is that they seek to achieve through their actions. The simplest model focuses on politicians and assumes they are motivated predominantly by narrow partisan concerns. This undoubtedly captures a great deal of truth. But reality is more complex: just what those partisan concerns are is far from straightforward; and many actors – including politicians themselves – may have broader values too. I survey these diverse motivations in the present chapter.

I begin by considering power: assuming that actors do want to maximize their power, what are the issues they think about in relation to electoral reform? I then turn to values: if actors are not out to enhance their own position, but rather seek the wider good, what are the criteria according to which they may judge the many options available? While I use the language of ‘power interests’ and ‘values’ to describe these two broad categories of motivation, the first should not straightforwardly be equated with self-interest, nor the second with altruism.