Making Olson work
Rejuvenating ‘supply-side’ explanations
in Groups, representation and democracy
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This chapter scrutinizes the argument of Mancur Olson regarding collective action. His thesis has been instrumental in fostering pessimism about the democratic potential of groups. This chapter argues that while his predictions are right, for representation groups, his reliance on a dominant and wide-spread self-interested rationality is a weakness in his framework. Instead, this chapter argues that the reason they work is not to do with the rationality of joiners, but the way the group constructs and legitimizes a passive form of group affiliation. Thus, Olson works as much because of a supply-side, as a demand-side, phenomenon.

Groups, representation and democracy

Between promise and practice

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