THE LOGIC OF. COLLECTIVE ACTION ten. Public Goods and the. Theory of Groups. MANCUR OLSON. Harvard University Press. Cambridge • Massachusetts. Olson, Mancur. The Logic of Collective Action: Public Goods and the Theory of Groups. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. [pages THE LOGIC OF. COLLECTIVE ACTION. Public Goods and the. Theory of Groups. MANCUR OLSON. Harvard University Press. Cambridge • Massachusetts.
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Logic of Collective Action. Chapter (PDF Available) · January with 2, Reads. DOI: /_ In book: The Encyclopedia of. This chapter focuses on Mancur Olson's book The Logic ofCollective Action , which offers an in-depth analysis of the role of organized interests and is. Since Mancur Olson's „Logic of collective action” it is common conviction in social sciences that in large groups the prospects of a successful organization of.
This example clearly captures how the collective action problem may arise. A Critical Examination……………. The collective action problem, as argued by Olson, is a problem associated with large groups, as opposed to smaller ones who are able to overcome it.
The rationale underlying this theory is that the larger the group, the more likely it is that individuals will deem their own contribution as insignificant. Clearly, the share of the burden of providing the collective good would fall disproportionately upon different parties. Olson gives the example of NATO, which has been characterised by a tendency for the United States to bear disproportionate shares of the burdens, whereas smaller countries choose, in many cases to remain neutral Olson, , p.
A number of solutions are offered in his book, such as finding a way of excluding the free-rider, making membership in a group compulsory, or using violence and picket lines, and, when possible, organising smaller groups. The rationale underlying this potential solution to the problem of collective action is that individuals know that, unless they join the group, they cannot receive these private benefits. By employing a cost-benefit analysis of comparing these private benefits against the costs of membership, individuals will decide to join the group if the benefits exceed the costs.
Thus, the collective action problem will, according to Olson, be overcome. These groups are organised for some purpose other than the collective good that they may offer.
He specifically looks at labour unions, farm organisations and professional organisations , p. Dunleavy offers a cost- benefit analysis of the decision of membership and illustrates the point made by Olson, that the crucial determinant of the decision of membership is the balance between the non-collective benefit offered to potential members and the cost of membership; the collective benefit is not so important in large organisations.
The selective incentives must exceed membership costs, for people to join.
The criticism however comes when Dunleavy takes the argument a step further, arguing that, membership costs are incurred before benefits are received. Even if in the end there is a net gain derived from membership, the assets foregone will not directly be replaced. As a result, people must in the first place possess the amount of resources needed to pay for the costs of membership, otherwise they might not be willing or able to join at all.
The result therefore derived at by Dunleavy , p. Clearly therefore, a factor ignored by Olson is that participation in organisations is not simply the by-product of net benefits for the individual, but it is, in many cases, class-biased Dunleavy, , p.
When individuals are making the choice of whether to join a group and participate in the production of a collective good, it has been argued that, they are, in effect, making a cost-benefit analysis. The assumptions that this bears, however, are rather simplistic, as individuals are thought to possess perfect knowledge of the world around them.
In particular, it is assumed that they know their own interests and hence their preferences; this encompasses the knowledge of the benefits that are on offer by different organisations, ignoring the idea that in order to acquire such information it may bear costs.
This is ignored by Olson. As Ward , p. It is for this reason in fact, that many political scientists contest the validity of rational choice theory, as indeed the assumptions underlying it are, in many cases, unrealistic and over-simplistic.
The case of voting is an area that has attracted the attention of a number of scholars e. Ward The collective action problem suggests that people choose to free-ride when they feel that their own contribution is not likely to make much difference.
As a result, rational choice theory may be problematic in explaining why people vote at all Ward, , p. To take the argument a step further, critics would support that rational choice hypotheses have not, at large, survived empirical testing: The suggestion that individuals frequently act altruistically is one that is ignored by rational choice theor: To return therefore to the main objective of this study, namely the critical evaluation of the private benefits theory, one could argue that the politics of self-altruism are completely ignored by any attempt to overcome the collective action problem.
Instead, the good produced will be instrumentally valued.
In other words, Olson precludes the possibility that individuals may join an organisation because they value the collective good as such. The only thing they value is the private benefit they will receive. Muller and Opp investigate the validity of private interest theory. They conclude that, selective incentives prove to be irrelevant in collective action.
Instead, their proposition is for a public goods model: This is so because they may choose not to devote these gains in the provision of the collective good.
As Laver , p. The criticism offered by Laver is that, even if individuals did choose to join the union, motivated by the private benefits on offer, and yielding a surplus for the union, this need not immediately be translated in that this surplus will be deployed for the production of collective benefits to members; if they did devote their surplus in this way, then they would be, as Laver , p.
Dismissing the Private Benefits Solution In light of the above criticisms, one would be led to dismissing the private benefits solution to the problem of collective action, as largely irrelevant and unrealistic, stemming from a set of over- simplistic assumptions, that are, in many cases, fallacious.
Rational choice theory is in fact a valuable, albeit controversial, contribution to social science. It is true that the bases of this theory are not to be found in any real world models and indeed, many times empirical findings do not do justice to the theory.
Even though in most cases this course of action may not turn out to be true, the value of this contribution may be seen if the argument is slightly twisted; it may be argued that, although the private benefits idea —as a solution to the collective action problem— has not given the reader a complete, spherical explanation of how people behave, it has offered a hypothesis of how one might have behaved if certain circumstances assumptions had prevailed.
The author has sought to build a model to study a particular theory. Models are usually made simplistic in order to facilitate a better understanding of the hypothesis they are trying to put across.
The only danger that the simplified model-building method involves, is that, in certain cases, models may turn out to be too over-simplified to have any practical meaning. Olson, however, has attempted to make his model compatible with the real world, by actually giving practical examples —like that of labour unions— where they may apply. Conclusion In conclusion it could be inferred that the collective action problem can be overcome in a number of ways, although attention has focused on one particular solution offered by Olson, which has proved to be a highly controversial one.
In particular the offer of private benefits as a means of inducing people to join an organisation and thereby contribute to the production of the collective good has been viewed with scepticism by scholars. The criticisms offered are indeed very valid, as not only have they questioned several aspects of this solution, but they have also concerned themselves with the very root of the problem, namely the assumptions upon which this theory rests.
Dr Christina Ioannou References: Dowding, K. Dowding and D. Economists have long understood that defense, law, and order were public goods that could not be marketed to individuals, and that taxation was necessary.
They have not, however, taken account of the fact that private as well as governmental organizations produce public goods. The services the labor union provides for the worker it represents, or the benefits a lobby obtains for the group it represents, are public goods: It follows that, just as governments require compulsory taxation, many large private organizations require special and sometimes coercive devices to obtain the resources they need.
This is not true of smaller organizations for, as this book shows, small and large organizations support themselves in entirely different ways. Now Available: The digital Loeb Classical Library loebclassics. Booksellers and Librarians: Our recent titles are available via Edelweiss.
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