Collective Action Theory

Elinor Ostrom

in The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Politics

Published in print July 2009 | ISBN: 9780199566020
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Political Science

Collective Action Theory

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This article discusses collective action theory and focuses on three broad tropics. It first examines the growing and extensive theoretical literature that posits a host of structural variables presumed to affect the likelihood of individuals achieving collective action to overcome social dilemmas. It studies how a theory of boundedly rational, norm-based human behaviour is a better foundation for explaining collective action than a model of maximizing material payoffs to self. The article also discusses the link between structural measures and core individual relationships. It ends by reflecting on the challenge that political scientists face in testing collective action theory in light of the large number of variables posited to affect outcomes.

Keywords: collective action theory; theoretical literature; structural variables; social dilemmas; human behavior; material payoffs; core individual relationships

Article.  10314 words. 

Subjects: Politics ; Comparative Politics ; Political Theory

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