Edited by Hans Westlund and Kiyoshi Kobayashi
Chapter 4: Foundations of collective action: towards a general theory
Collective action has been both pervasive and persistent at all levels of human society since the pre-historic days of hunters and gatherers. With the progress of human society, humanity has been managing collective economic and political activities of higher levels of complexity by developing new knowledge and designing new norms and institutions. The development of human civilization is indeed a story of the development of humanity’s ability to harness the synergy and complementarities in collective activities and distribute their benefits in a legitimate manner. Collective action abounds across the world at all levels – joint family, community, state agencies, voluntary organizations, labor unions and business organizations representing respective class interests, cartels and lobby groups of individuals, and international organizations. We see collective action all over the world even as this chapter is being written: uprisings of ordinary civilians in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Libya, and Syria against autocratic regimes; international coalition of nation states using their collective military might in combating terrorism and providing moral and material support to civilians fighting for democracy; the European Union collectively working out bail-out packages for debt-ridden Greece; voluntary civilian movements in India seeking to strengthen institutional mechanisms to combat corruption (http://www.indiaagainstcorruption. org); and business and research organizations in the UK and France working together to monitor carbon footprints in the entire supply chain of consumer products as reported in The Economist Technology Quarterly, 2011.
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