Mancur Olson’s The Logic Of Collective Action



In 1965 an intellectual bomb was dropped on the field of interest groups, in the form of . In this seminal work Olson details the dynamics of group formation. The central theory is that men and women are rational, correspondingly they maximize benefits and minimize costs; because of this rationality people will not join in collective action unless induced to do so by incentives. A corollary to the central theory presented is the “by-product” theory. The by-product theory states,
‘The large and powerful economic lobbies are in fact the by-products of organizations that obtain their strength and support because they perform some function in addition to lobbying for collective goods ...

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is the rationality of man that is, people maximize benefits while minimizing costs. This cost-benefit analysis says that people want the maximum amount of benefits or results with the least amount of cost (money, time, etc.). A rational person will not join an interest group because the benefits do not outweigh the costs of joining. Olson limits the by-product theory to large and latent groups. This is done because according to Olson’s central theory of collective action small and intermediate groups do not face the collective action problem. In order to properly explore the merits and failures of the by-product theory, a broad interpretation must be used. The by-product theory can be defined as, groups engage in lobbying activities as a by-product of their primary activities. An interest group is not established primarily to secure a collective good, but rather as a subsidiary activity that the parent organization sees as a viable means for improvement. This ...

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groups are environmental groups (Greenpeace, Sierra Club). Public interest groups (AARP), single-issue groups (abortion, MADD) among a host of others. Trade associations also account for a large amount of interest groups. Trade associations are groups that are formed in order to regulate and represent certain types of industry and business. Good examples of trade associations are bar associations, the American Medical Association, labor unions and other professional organizations. These three types of interest groups represent the majority of groups present on the national level. An exploration of these groups and other groups will provide insight into the workings of ...

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Added: 4/22/2004 03:12:53 AM
Category: English
Type: Premium Paper
Words: 1892
Pages: 7

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