<i>Making</i> Olson work: rejuvenating ‘supply-side’ explanations

Darren Halpin

in Groups, Representation and Democracy

Published by Manchester University Press

Published in print July 2010 | ISBN: 9780719076527
Published online July 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781781701690 | DOI:
Making Olson work: rejuvenating ‘supply-side’ explanations

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This chapter scrutinizes the argument of Mancur Olson regarding collective action. His thesis has been instrumental in fostering pessimism about the democratic potential of groups. This chapter argues that while his predictions are right, for representation groups, his reliance on a dominant and wide-spread self-interested rationality is a weakness in his framework. Instead, this chapter argues that the reason they work is not to do with the rationality of joiners, but the way the group constructs and legitimizes a passive form of group affiliation. Thus, Olson works as much because of a supply-side, as a demand-side, phenomenon.

Keywords: Mancur Olson; collective action; democratic potential; pessimism; representation groups; group affiliation; supply-side; demand-side

Chapter.  11578 words. 

Subjects: Politics

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