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Collective Action and the Evolution of Social Norms

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Type: Working Paper
Author: Ostrom, Elinor
Date: 1999
Agency: Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN
Series: Working Paper, no. W99-20
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/5683
Sector: Social Organization
Subject(s): game theory
prisoner's dilemma
collective action--theory
social organization--theory
common pool resources--theory
Abstract: "With the publication of The Logic of Collective Action in 1965, Mancur Olson challenged a cherished foundation of modern democratic thought that groups would form and take collective action whenever members jointly benefited. Olson's provocative assertion that no one would contribute to the provision of a public good—the zero contribution thesis—was soon derived as the predicted equilibrium of an N-person Prisoner's Dilemma (PD) game. The N-person PD game—and social dilemmas more generally—are viewed as the canonical representations for collective-action problems. The zero contribution thesis, however, contradicted observations of everyday life in mature democracies that many people voted, did not cheat on their taxes, and contributed effort to voluntary associations."

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