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

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Abstract

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.

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The author thanks the Russell Sage Foundation for support as a Visiting Fellow during 1986–87. The paper has benefited from the comments of Patricia Gurin, Steve Brams, Jane Mansbridge, Linda Cohen, Tyler Cowen, Ami Glazer, and seminar participants at the University of Rochester.

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Uhlaner, C.J. “Relational goods” and participation: Incorporating sociability into a theory of rational action. Public Choice 62, 253–285 (1989). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02337745

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