collective action

Mancur Olson
From The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics, Second Edition, 2008
Edited by Steven N. Durlauf and Lawrence E. Blume
Alternate versions available: 1987 Edition
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Abstract

The logic of collective action undermines the assumption that common interests are always promoted by their beneficiaries. Where the number of beneficiaries is large, the benefits of collective action are a public good: beneficiaries will gain whether or not they participate in promoting them, while their individual efforts cannot secure them. Small groups can use selective incentives to ensure that their members contribute to promoting their common interests. This typically results in the paradoxical ‘exploitation of the great by the small’. The logic of collective action helps explain many notable examples of economic growth and stagnation since the Middle Ages.
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How to cite this article

Olson, Mancur. "collective action." The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics. Second Edition. Eds. Steven N. Durlauf and Lawrence E. Blume. Palgrave Macmillan, 2008. The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics Online. Palgrave Macmillan. 21 April 2014 <http://www.dictionaryofeconomics.com/article?id=pde2008_C000602> doi:10.1057/9780230226203.0260

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