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Group Size And The Logic Of Collective Action:


  • Rickard Sandell
  • Charlotta Stern


In this paper we address the free-rider problem from a network perspective. We suggest that individuals' groups of relevant others are considerably smaller than is usually assumed in the Olsonian tradition. Instead of focusing on the interest group as a whole, we argue that a group of relevant others consists of those to whom the individual is tied through various social bonds. Since these groups tend to be small, social selective incentives are likely to be efficient in inducing individual participation. In testing these ideas empirically, we use microdata on members of a Swedish temperance movement organization during the period of 1896-1937. We estimate how individuals' groups of relevant others are composed with respect to membership in the movement organization and how the composition of the groups affects individuals' decisions to join the movement organization. The results of the analysis support our thesis that additional movement members in the group of relevant others increase an individual's propensity to join a social movement organization. However, the results also lend support to Olson's free-rider thesis: When controlling for the composition of the group of relevant others, additional members in the movement as a whole decrease an individual's propensity to join the movement.

Suggested Citation

  • Rickard Sandell & Charlotta Stern, 1998. "Group Size And The Logic Of Collective Action:," Rationality and Society, , vol. 10(3), pages 327-345, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:ratsoc:v:10:y:1998:i:3:p:327-345

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