Rationality in collective action

Philosophy of the Social Sciences 36 (1):3-17 (2006)
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Abstract

Collective action is interpreted as a matter of people doing something together, and it is assumed that this involves their having a collective intention to do that thing together. The account of collective intention for which the author has argued elsewhere is presented. In terms that are explained, the parties are jointly committed to intend as a body that such-and-such. Collective action problems in the sense of rational choice theory—problems such as the various forms of coordination problem and the prisoner’s dilemma—are then considered. An explanation is given of how, when such a problem is interpreted in terms of the parties’ inclinations, a suitable collective intention resolves the problem for agents who are rational in a broad sense other than the technical sense of game theory. Key Words: rationality • collective action • collective intention • joint commitment.

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Margaret Gilbert
University of California, Irvine

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