The Critical Mass in Collective Action

The Critical Mass in Collective Action

by Gerald Marwell, Pamela Oliver


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The problem of collective action is that each member of a group wants other members to make necessary sacrifices while he or she "free rides," reaping the benefits of collective action without doing the work. Inevitably the end result is that no one does the work and the common interest is not realized. This book analyzes the social pressure whereby groups solve the problem of collective action. The authors break new ground in showing that the problem of collective action requires a model of group process and cannot be deduced from simple models of individual behavior. They employ formal mathematical models to emphasize the role of small subgroups of especially motivated individuals who form the "critical mass" that sets collective action in motion.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780521039550
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Publication date: 11/01/2007
Series: Studies in Rationality and Social Change
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 224
Product dimensions: 5.47(w) x 8.46(h) x 0.51(d)

Table of Contents

Preface; Acknowledgements; 1. The critical mass and the problem of collective action; 2. Building blocks: goods, groups and processes; 3. The paradox of group size; 4. The dynamics of production functions; 5. Social networks: density, centralization and cliques; 6. Selectivity in social networks; 7. Reach and selectivity as strategies of recruitment; 8. Unfinished business; References; Name index; Subject index.

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