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Personal Influence, Collective Rationality, and Mass Political Action


  • Finkel, Steven E.
  • Muller, Edward N.
  • Opp, Karl-Dieter


We propose two models to explain why individuals participate in collective political action—a personal influence model and a collective rationality model. Each model overcomes the free-rider problem posed by conventional rational choice theory and left unresolved in previous research. The models are tested for legal and illegal protest behaviors, using data from a national sample and two samples of protest-prone communities in the Federal Republic of Germany. The personal influence model is supported for both forms of participation, while the collective rationality model is supported for legal protest. We discuss implications of the results for grievance and rational choice theories of collective political action.

Suggested Citation

  • Finkel, Steven E. & Muller, Edward N. & Opp, Karl-Dieter, 1989. "Personal Influence, Collective Rationality, and Mass Political Action," American Political Science Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 83(3), pages 885-903, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:cup:apsrev:v:83:y:1989:i:03:p:885-903_08

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    10. Sheely, Ryan, 2015. "Mobilization, Participatory Planning Institutions, and Elite Capture: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Rural Kenya," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 67(C), pages 251-266.
    11. Congleton, Christopher, 2009. "Results of the Fall 2007 UC Davis Campus Travel Assessment," Institute of Transportation Studies, Working Paper Series qt2547k6pt, Institute of Transportation Studies, UC Davis.
    12. Andrew Marcum & David Skarbek, 2014. "Why didn’t slaves revolt more often during the Middle Passage?," Rationality and Society, , vol. 26(2), pages 236-262, May.
    13. Joseph DiGrazia, 2014. "Individual Protest Participation in the United States: Conventional and Unconventional Activism," Social Science Quarterly, Southwestern Social Science Association, vol. 95(1), pages 111-131, March.

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