Structural actions you take to win. The best general wins wars without fighting a battle etc etc…

Positive political theory has three central assumptions: 1) Rationality-individuals make reasoned decisions; 2) Component analysis-only small parts of a system are important in predicting human behavior; and 3) Strategic behavior-individuals take into account what others may do before making decisions (interaction as opposed to action). All three assumptions play an important role in his model and attempt to answer the question: Does a distinctly political kind of behavior exist? Riker’s answer is yes: heresthetics. Riker coined this term from a Greek root meaning “choosing and electing.” For Riker, the rational political person wants to win at the game of politics. How they win is using rhetoric (verbal skill in persuasion) and heresthetics (structuring the process so one may win) to build effective coalitions.


Colin Hay, in a great essay on King Canute-

Hay, C. 2009. King Canute and the ‘Problem’ of Structure and Agency: On Times, Tides and Heresthetics. Political Studies, Vol. 57, pp.260-279.

Yet it is not just the general category of heresthetics that is relevant here. For Riker goes on to identify three separate varieties of heresthetics. These he associates with control of the political agenda, strategic voting (logrolling and so forth) and, rather more importantly for our purposes, what he terms the ‘manipulation of issue dimensions’ (Riker, 1982, pp. 215–32; 1986).

(Hay, 2009:276)


Riker,W. H. (1984) ‘The Heresthetics of Constitution-Making: The Presidency in 1787, with Comments on Determinism and Rational Choice’, American Political Science Review, 78 (1), 1–16.

One contemporary method of reconciling the conflict in methodology between determinism and indeterminism is the notion of rational choice, which allows for both regularities in behavior and artistic creation. A detailed explanation of artistry within the rational choice context has not yet been developed, so this essay offers such an explanation in terms of the notion of heresthetics or the dynamic manipulation of the conditions of choice. The running example used throughout is the decision on the Constitutional Convention of 1787 on the method of selecting the president.

There’s a section of his Liberalism against Populism on it too….

Riker,W. H. (1982) Liberalism against Populism. San Francisco CA:W. H. Freeman

See also Facipulation

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