RFF Press – 1982 – 268 pages
Public choice, an important subdiscipline in the field of political theory, seeks to understand how people and societies make decisions affecting their collective lives. Relying heavily on theoretical models of decision making, public choice postulates that people act in their individual interests in making collective decisions. As it happens, however, reality does not mirror theory, and people often act contrary to what the principal public choice models suggest. In this book, Russell Hardin looks beyond the models to find out why people choose to act together in situations that the models find quite hopeless. He uses three constructs of modern political economy--public goods, the Prisoner's Dilemma, and game theory--to test public choice theories against real world examples of collective action. These include movements important in American society in the past few decades--civil rights, the Vietnam War, women's rights, and environmental concerns. This classic work on public choice will be of interest to theoreticians and graduate students in the fields of public choice, political economy, or political theory--and to those in other disciplines who are concerned with the problem of collective action in social contexts.
'Offers a trail from the micro-assumptions of rational-choice theory to the macro-concerns of many students of collective-action.' Politics & Society
Table of Contents Preface Introduction 1. The Back of the Invisible Hand 2. Collective Action and Prisoner's Dilemma 3. Group Size 4. Types of Collective Action Problems 5. Assymetries in Collective Action 6. Contractarian Provisions 7. Extrarational Motivations 8. Dynamic Analysis of Collective Action 9. Rationality in the Prisoner's Dilemma 10. Contract by Convention 11. Enforcement of Conventions 12. Limits to Contract by Convention 13. Contract by Convention in Social Theory 14. Contract by Convention in Politics
Russell Hardin is professor of politics at New York University. His recent books include Indeterminacy and Society and Trust and Trustworthiness.