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Hardcover | Out of Print | 380 pp. | 6 x 9 in | September 2001 | ISBN: 9780262072304
Paperback | $40.00 X | £32.95 | 380 pp. | 6 x 9 in | July 2002 | ISBN: 9780262571678
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Special Interest Politics


This landmark theoretical book is about the mechanisms by which special interest groups affect policy in modern democracies. Defining a special interest group as any organization that takes action on behalf of an identifiable group of voters, Gene Grossman and Elhanan Helpman ask: How do special interest groups derive their power and influence? What determines the extent to which they are able to affect policy outcomes? What happens when groups with differing objectives compete for influence?

The authors develop important theoretical tools for studying the interactions among voters, interest groups, and politicians. They assume that individuals, groups, and parties act in their own self-interest and that political outcomes can be identified with the game-theoretic concept of an equilibrium. Throughout, they progress from the simple to the more complex. When analyzing campaign giving, for example, they begin with a model of a single interest group and a single, incumbent policy maker. They proceed to add additional interest groups, a legislature with several independent politicians, and electoral competition between rival political parties. The book is organized in three parts. Part I focuses on voting and elections. Part II examines the use of information as a tool for political influence. Part III deals with campaign contributions, which interest groups may use either to influence policy makers’ positions and actions or to help preferred candidates to win election.

About the Authors

Gene M. Grossman is Jacob Viner Professor of International Economics and Director of the International Economics Section at Princeton University.

Elhanan Helpman is Professor of Economics at Harvard University, the Archie Sherman Chair Professor of International Economic Relations in the Eitan Berglas School of Economics at Tel-Aviv University, and a Fellow at the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research.


“Grossman and Helpman have produced an elegant theoretical foundation for understanding the interactions between groups and politicians in the political economy of a liberal democracy. It should be of 'special interest' to political scientists and economists alike.”
Kenneth A. Shepsle, George D. Markham Professor of Government, Harvard University
“In this pioneering work, Grossman and Helpman use tools of economic theory to provide new insights into lobbying and special-interest-group-politics. The work is innovative and comprehensive, shedding light on a wide range of questions in a unified treatment. It is a must for anyone interested in special interest groups.”
Allen Drazen, The Eitan Berglas School of Economics, Tel Aviv University
“The authors succeed brilliantly in producing a self-contained monograph that lays out a coherent theoretical framework that allows them to tackle a large number of important substantive issues. What I find most impressive is that the book is very focused and yet covers a lot of ground.”
Antonio Merlo, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania
“An excellent theoretical book on special interest politics. Special Interest Politics would be a good book for scholars as well as for students in introductory graduate courses in political economy that deal with the influence of money and interest groups on political outcomes.”
Thomas Stratmann, Professor of Economics, Center for Study of Public Choice, George Mason University
“The authors bring a sophisticated game theory perspective to special interest groups in modern democracies. The book is smart, thorough, and well organized around questions of voting, lobbying, and campaign contributions. It brings a fresh viewpoint to a continuing topic in modern political life.”
Darrell M. West, Taubman Center for Public Policy, Brown University
Special Interest Politics is a major work in which economic analysis confronts politics. Grossman and Helpman synthesize and extend the body of political-economic work on interest groups, lobbying, and government with remarkable consistency and clarity. Chapter after chapter, their analyses and insights will put researchers into the fast lane en route to continued advances in this crucial area.”
Keith Krehbiel, Edward B. Rust Professor of Political Science, Graduate School of Business, Stanford University
“Grossman and Helpman have produced a book that is both substantively important and theoretically accessible. The theoretical aspirations of this book are breathtaking: the goal is to make a contribution to democratic theory, based on technically rigorous models. Special Interest Politics is the most important book on interest groups in at least a decade.”
Michael Munger, Professor and Chairman, Department of Political Science, Duke University