Collective Action

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1. Howard Rheingold:

"Collective action involves freely chosen self-election (which is almost always coincident with self-interest) and distributed coordination; collectivism involves coercion and centralized control

collective action is not the same as collectivism. Commons-based peer production in Wikipedia, open source software, open source biology, prediction markets is collective action, not collectivism." (

2. Tine De Moor:

"Charles and Louise Tilly, Sidney Tarrow, and Douglas McAdam considered collective action mainly as large-scale mass movements that could often make their points only by recourse to riots, demonstrations, or forms of mass violence, such as peasant revolts. Charles Tilly justifies the use of the term ‘‘collective action’’ (instead, for example, of the term ‘‘rebellion’’) by pointing to the many methods of action besides rioting or demonstrating used by groups to make their points and try to change their circumstances. For Tilly, therefore, collective action ‘‘consists of all occasions on which sets of people commit pooled resources, including their own efforts, to common efforts’’." (


Why Mancur Olson's pessimistic vision on the Logic of Collective Action is wrong

Mark Cooper:

"Since cooperation lies at the core of the emerging mode of production, it is important to understand why a new solution to the challenge emerges. Conventional collective action arguments say that a large group is less likely to generate collective goods because each member would receive such a small fraction of the benefit that they would lose their desire to produce collectively. However, with the emerging collaborative production the opposite is true as seen in open-source software: the larger the group connected by the Internet, the more likely it is to have the motivation and resources to create code. User-driven innovation causes individuals to volunteer, particularly the core group of lead users.

The existence of heterogeneous resources available in the network definitely improves the efficiency of collaborative responses, but this may not be a necessary condition. The critical condition is the ease of communications. The Internet, for instance, spawned innovation, as participants of group projects were able to work together over long distances and share their specific skills in a “seamless process.”

New communication technologies allow for reduction in cost of sending information long distances, increase “noticeability, and make ineffective communicative networks effective.” Communications technology allows large numbers of people with common interests to interact and share information “in a way that undermines many widely held beliefs about the logic of collective action.” It may well be that the literature on collective action was always too pessimistic. For example, the literature that stresses the tragedy of the commons assumes “individuals do not know one another, cannot communicate effectively, and thus cannot develop agreements, norms, and sanctions” was never correct in physical space and certainly is not correct in cyberspace. The ability to communicate changes everything – especially when a collective payoff flows from cooperation.

In addition, the recognition of shared interest plays a key role in establishing the necessary cooperation. When a monitored and sanctioned system is agreed upon, it “enhances the likelihood that agreements will be sustained, they are capable of setting up and operating their own enforcement mechanism.” Due to the benefits received from cooperation, the effect of breaking those agreements may deter those inclined to break the agreements, as it will affect not only the individual, but also the group as a whole. Thus, even prior to the advent of digital communications platforms, the ability to communicate and exchange information was central to the ability to organize around shared interests and take collective action, but the capacity to do so has been fundamentally enhanced by the recent technological revolution." (

More Information


Miller, J & Page, S 2004, ‘The Standing Ovation Problem’, COMPLEXITY, vol. 9, no. 5, pp. 8-16. [1]

Bond, R. M., C. J. Fariss, J. J. Jones, A. D. I. Kramer, C. Marlow, J. E. Settle, and J. H. Fowler. 2012. “A 61-Million-Person Experiment in Social Influence and Political Mobilization.” Nature 489: 295–298. [2]

S. Gonzalez-Bailon, J. Borge-Holthoefer, A. Rivero, and Y. Moreno. The Dynamics of Protest Recruitment through an Online Network. Nature, December 2011. [3]

Margetts, Helen Zerlina, John, Peter, Reissfelder, Stephane and Hale, Scott A., Social Influence and Collective Action: An Experiment Investigating the Effects of Visibility and Social Information Moderated by Personality (April 18, 2012). [4]

Hale, Scott A. and Margetts, Helen Zerlina, Understanding the Mechanics of Online Collective Action Using ‘Big Data’ (March 22, 2012). [5]

Louise A. Tilly and Charles Tilly, Class Conflict and Collective Action (London [etc.], 1981)