The Olson Problem and Resource Mobilization: Rational Choice Theory and Political Sociology of Social Movements

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Abstract

This paper explores the link between rational choice approaches to collective action or " the Olson problem " and resource mobilization theory as a political sociological approach to social movements. The three major themes in Mancur Olson's The Logic of Collective Action (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Cambridge University Press, 1965) are (1) group size and suboptimal provision of collective goods, (2) heterogeneity of individuals and provision of collective goods, and (3) effectiveness of selective incentives in eliciting contribution to collective goods provision. Critics from the resource mobilization perspective and formalizations in terms of rational choice theory concerning these themes are reviewed. The review suggests that, as for the first theme, attempts should be made to link the theoretical derivations obtained from the rational choice approaches with the findings in the study of social movements from the resource mobilization perspective. It is also suggested that, as for the second and third themes, formalizations in terms of rational choice theory which share the assumption of intergroup conflict and cooperation with the resource mobilization approach are needed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39-54
Number of pages16
JournalSociological Theory and Methods
Volume9
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1994 Jan 1
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • resource mobilization theory
  • social movements
  • the Olson problem

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science

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