Journals

Journal of Sortition

Launching in Spring 2025

 

Call for papers

Little more than a decade ago the word ‘sortition’ (random selection by lot) went largely unrecognised in social science and humanities departments, other than classics. Fast forward to 2023 and a Google search for (randomly-selected) ‘citizens’ assembly’ generates over 200 million results. What is responsible for this remarkable turn-around?

Although most of the recent activist and media focus has been on the political potential of sortition, much of the ground-breaking scholarship dealt with social justice. The pioneering sortition literature discusses random allocation of scarce goods such as social housing and school places to eliminate bias and ensure just distribution. For example, in 2003 one London medical school allocated limited places among suitably qualified candidates randomly. Drawing lots in circumstances where ‘tragic choices’ are involved has been advocated because some situations are beyond rational human decision-making.

Moving beyond social justice, the theme of Oliver Dowlen’s Political Potential of Sortition (2008) is how the ‘blind break’ of the lottery can constrain the power of appointment. In this way the arational is used purposefully and rationally to break up concentrations of power and help to protect the political system from corruption and factionalism. Peter Stone’s Luck of the Draw (2011) extended this ‘lottery principle’ to decision making in general. Both Dowlen and Stone, in different ways, could be said to have developed Immanuel Kant’s idea that the first task of reason is to recognize its own limitations. Paradoxically, there are many situations in which tossing a coin may be the most rational thing to do.

The selection of political officials by lot, a procedure largely ignored since the eighteenth century, has undergone a recent revival, as reformers search for new innovations to re-invigorate democracy. There are many possible approaches to this subject. Dowlen and Stone’s focus on arationality suggests that lotteries can protect democracies by shielding the selection of officeholders from corruption and venality. By way of contrast, many sortition innovations (such as James Fishkin’s deliberative polls) presuppose that a randomly-selected minipublic will embody the ratio of politically-salient characteristics in the population that it represents. The claim is based on developments in public opinion polling using random sampling. This idea raises both theoretical issues (e.g., what is the significance of obtaining such a random sample?) and practical considerations (how can a truly accurate sample be attained?) that require further exploration.

A parallel focus – going back to Aristotle, but recently popularised by James Surowiecki and developed further by Hélène Landemore – is on the ‘wisdom of crowds’ and ‘collective wisdom’, There is now a considerable theoretical, experimental, and empirical literature on the ways in which large randomly-selected assemblies can reach ‘wise’ decisions, and much hard-won experience on the ways they can go wrong (e.g. via information cascades). This literature has generated much interest in the problem of structuring assemblies (in terms of briefing materials, expert witnesses, moderators, etc.) to ensure collective wisdom, although all of these generate problems of their own. Who guards the guardians?

The Journal of Sortition is dedicated to the exploration of all aspects of sortition, particularly (but not necessarily) as a contribution to democratic reform. The journal welcomes contributions from all sides of the debate – including sceptical voices. Above all, it seeks to clarify the role of sortition in public life, in full recognition of both its virtues and its limitations.

The development work on sortition was enhanced by the 2008-2012 Tirage au Sort workshop series at Sciences Po in Paris, and this will be the home of the Journal of Sortition, under the editorship of CEVIPOF Senior Research Fellow, Gil Delannoi. It will be published in Exeter, UK by Imprint Academic, alongside the book series Sortition and Public Policy (edited by Barbara Goodwin), and the journal History of Political Thought (edited by Janet Coleman and Iain Hampsher-Monk). All submissions will be peer reviewed.

Submissions and enquiries to jos@imprint.co.uk

See also: Sortition and Public Policy Series 

Editorial Board

Editor in Chief:

Gil Delannoi, CEVIPOF/Sciences Po
1 place St. Thomas d’Aquin, 75007 Paris, bureau L 205, France
gil.delannoi@sciencespo.fr

Editorial Board:

Arash Abizadeh (McGill)
Josine Blok (Utrecht)
Conall Boyle (Swansea)
Hubertus Buchstein (Greifswald)
Daniela Cammack (UCLA)
Paul Cartledge (Cambridge)
Ruth Chang (Oxford)
Antoine Chollet (Lausanne)
Oliver Dowlen (Sciences Po)
James Fishkin (Stanford)
Barbara Goodwin (UEA)
Cristina Lafont (Northwestern)
Helene Landemore (Yale)
Ethan Leib (Fordham)
Robert C. Luskin (University of Texas at Austin)
Irad Malkin (Tel Aviv)
Laurence Morel (Lille)
Josiah Ober (Stanford)
David Owen (Southampton)
Joanna Podgórska-Rykała (UKEN, Krakow)
Ben Saunders (Southampton)
Yves Sintomer (Paris 8)
Graham Smith (Westminster)
Peter Stone (TCD)
Keith Sutherland (Exeter)
Nadia Urbinati (Columbia)
Gerard Vong (Oxford)

Author Guide

Submitting Papers and Books for Review

Articles for Publication

Contributions should be submitted by email as attached files (saved in Word, or in Rich Text Format, or as PDF). Any figures/tables should be included in the file itself and not sent separately. Anonymised submissions are preferred but we do not currently insist on it. A short 150 word summary should accompany each submission (placed at the beginning of the paper). Articles should not normally exceed 9,000 words (including abstract, footnotes, references, etc.). Please include a short CV for the ‘about authors’ section.

They should be submitted to jos@imprint.co.uk

If a paper is accepted for publication following external peer review, we offer standard ‘subcription only’ route with no charge to authors, or a ‘gold open access’ option which requires the payment of a fee. Please see the following page for details: Open Access Information

 

Style Sheet and Guide to Authors

A Multidisciplinary Journal

The Journal of Sortition is a refereed journal aimed at an educated multidisciplinary readership. Authors should not assume prior knowledge in a subject speciality and should provide background information for their research. The use of technical terms should be avoided or made explicit. Where technical details are essential (for example in laboratory experiments), try and include them in footnotes or appendices, leaving the text accessible to the non-specialist reader. The same principle should also apply to mathematics, unless essential to an argument.

Quotations, Footnotes, References and Bibliographies

Please follow the Harvard referencing system. See example pages (please also include DOI numbers where available).

Quotations of more than six lines should be indented. For shorter quotations use single inverted commas. All references should appear in the bibliography. Use square brackets for interpolations; use three dots to indicate the omission of material within a quotation. Original spelling and punctuation should be retained unless otherwise stated.

Publishing Ethics Guidelines

Please see the following page for details regarding publication ethics, including declarations of interest, authorship issues, data sharing, etc. Publishing Ethics

AI Content

Please find our policy on AI content here: AI Policy.

Books for Review

These should be sent to the Book Reviews Editor:
Keith Sutherland
Imprint Academic Ltd.
Unit 1, Seychelles Farm
Upton Pyne EX5 5HY
UK
jos@imprint.co.uk

Advertising and Subscription Enquiries

These should be sent to the publishers:

Imprint Academic
PO Box 200
Exeter
EX5 5YX
UK

Tel: +44 (0)1392 851550. Fax: +44 (0)1392 851178
ellie@imprint.co.uk

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