Olson's Theory Of Collective Action

1188 Words5 Pages
The theoretical framework guiding the research study is Olson’s (1965) theory of collective action. The theory’s origin can be traced back to rational choice theory and early group theories. It combines ideas from economics, politics, and social sciences in an attempt to explain individual behavior and group action. Especially, the theory’s application to diverse fields of study and its continued relevance in explaining individual behavior make it suitable for the exploration of the relationship between ICT use and citizenship norms. With regard to the proposed study, the argument can be made that Olson’s (1965) theory is relevant and appropriate as society and government are inherently efforts of collective action. In addition, it is considered…show more content…
Yet, it recognizes that self-interest and utility maximization tend to be in conflict with group interests. Already in A Treatise of Human Nature, Hume (1854) examines this particular problem. He tells the story of two neighbors and their intent to drain a meadow they shared. Noting that it is easy for the both of them to collaborate, Hume (1854) describes the difficulty in achieving said initiative once the number of people increases exponentially as “each [will] seek a pretext to free himself of the trouble and expense, and would lay the whole burden on others” (p. 311). Indeed, to achieve a group goal individuals may have to act altruistically and selfless rather than self-interested. Besides, they may have to forgo individual rewards and disregard personal welfare to advance a collective objective (Olson, 1965). Adding to this, Hume’s (1854) parable essentially captures the free-rider problem inherent in groups and society at large, as well as the looming tragedy of the commons, which Olson (1965) further expanded upon (Hardin, 1968; Hume, 1854). However, the example also accentuates another vital point: society is a collective effort. Notwithstanding that individuals form groups and states based on shared interests (i.e. social, economic, and…show more content…
Indeed, for collective action to take shape a collective good must exist, and individuals must share a common interest in obtaining the same. According to Olson (1965), a collective good is such that “an individual cannot exclude the others in the group from the benefits of that amount of public good he provides for himself” (p. 28). Simply put, a collective good is one that cannot be enjoyed solely by one individual, but inadvertently benefits a group. Likewise, a common interest exists when a group of individuals share a single purpose or objective that cannot or can only inadequately be advanced through individual, unorganized action (Olson,
Open Document