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Formal Models of Collective Action

Pamela E. Oliver
Annual Review of Sociology
Vol. 19 (1993), pp. 271-300
Published by: Annual Reviews
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2083389
Page Count: 30
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Formal Models of Collective Action
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Abstract

This review focuses on formal theories and models of collective action. There are many types of collective action, and they cannot all be captured with the same formal model. Four types of models are reviewed: single-actor models which treat the "group" behavior as given; models of the interdependent aggregation of individual choices into collective action; models of the collective decisions of individuals with different interests; and models of the dynamic interactions among collective actors and their opponents. All models require simplifying assumptions about some aspects of a situation so that others may be addressed. Models of the aggregation of individual choices have shown the greatest recent growth, have employed a wide variety of assumptions about individual behavior and coordination mechanisms, have identified complex interaction effects of group heterogeneity, and generally exhibit thresholds, discontinuities, and internal group differentiation. Models of dynamic interactions require further development but promise to be enriched by accumulating empirical time series data on collective events. Greater attention is urged to technical issues of formal symbolic mathematical analysis, experimental design, response surface analysis, and technical problems in the reduction and presentation of complex interactions.

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