Our Book of the Month choice for February

The SSL ‘Book of the Month’ feature highlights a book in our collection that has been chosen by one of our Subject Consultants. This may be a recent addition to our stock or an existing item that we would like to share with you.

John Southall in the Social Science Library selecting a book from the shelves.

February’s Book of the Month was selected by John Southall Bodleian Data Librarian and Subject Consultant for Economics and Sociology.

Front cover image of the book 'The arrow impossibility theorem' On the top is a rosette with 'SSL Book of the Month' on it.


The arrow impossibility theorem

Eric Maskin and Amartya Sen

Columbia University Press, 2014

JF1001.MAS 2014





It was chosen because of the way it assesses a ground breaking innovation in the history of welfare economics, voting theory, and collective choice.

Book Overview

Kenneth J. Arrow’s “impossibility theorem” was a watershed moment in the development of the Social Sciences, demonstrating that there is no voting rule that satisfies the four desirable axioms of decisiveness, consensus, non-dictatorship, and independence.

In this book Eric Maskin and Amartya Sen explore the implications of Arrow’s theorem. Sen considers its ongoing utility, exploring the theorem’s value and limitations in relation to recent research on social reasoning, and Maskin discusses how to design a voting rule that gets us closer to the ideal – given the impossibility of achieving the ideal. The volume also contains a contextual introduction by social choice scholar Prasanta K. Pattanaik and commentaries from Joseph E. Stiglitz and Kenneth J. Arrow himself, as well as essays by Maskin, Dasgupta, and Sen outlining the mathematical proof and framework behind their assertions.


The pioneers of social choice theory give us lively, enjoyable, and stimulating lectures and exchanges of ideas. Their views, more than sixty years after the publication of Kenneth J. Arrow’s theorem, are of paramount interest to anyone aware of the difficulties of collective decisions.”

Marc Fleurbaey, Princeton University

“How vital it is to understand the ideas behind Kenneth J. Arrow’s impossibility theorem if we want to design reasonably fair ways of coming to consensus decisions that take equitable account of individual preferences. This book is a marvelous introduction to the theorem, a keystone in the theory of social choice.”

Barry Mazur, Harvard University, author of Imagining Numbers

How can I access it?

We have two lending copies and one library use only copy of this book. One of our copies is currently located in our New Books Display Area (around the corner from our Issue Desk). Its shelfmark is JF1001.MAS 2014 It is also available as an eBook. For the eBook, access it from a Bodleian Library computer or use it remotely, by logging on to SOLO with your SSO.

Image of an open book with the pages curled to form a love heartWhat would your SSL Book of the Month be? Do you have a favourite book in our collection? If so, we would love to know what it is. Add a comment below or email us.

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