Public Choice

, Volume 62, Issue 3, pp 253-285

First online:

“Relational goods” and participation: Incorporating sociability into a theory of rational action

  • Carole Jean UhlanerAffiliated withSchool of Social Sciences, University of California, Irvine

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Theoretical explanations of why rational individuals would participate in politics remain unsatisfactory. This paper addresses the problem by developing and analyzing models which include among citizens' payoffs “relational goods,” objectives which depend upon interactions among persons. The models predict more participation than do the standard approaches. For example, under some circumstances persons will be more likely to act if they believe others will act, contrary to free-rider logic. More importantly, conditions are identified under which leaders could increase mass activity. Thus, a model is provided of “mobilization” in terms of the preferences and decisions of a rational individual.