Collective Action, Institutionalism, and the Internet

By Mansell, Robin | Journal of Economic Issues, June 2006 | Go to article overview

Collective Action, Institutionalism, and the Internet


Mansell, Robin, Journal of Economic Issues


With increasing emphasis on the informational aspects of the economy, there are calls for the reform of existing institutions and related policy changes to maximize economic efficiency and to foster equitable distribution of the benefits of "knowledge economies." Frequently those who propose new institutional solutions are fascinated by the pace of technological innovation, so much so that they fail to heed lessons that can be drawn from the various and rich strands of twentieth century institutional economics.

In this paper, the focus is on the lacunae in our understanding of the emergence of new institutions for governing the provision of Internet-based business services. The specific services of interest in this paper are those arising from initiatives that seek to develop large-scale distributed open source software applications for use by small and medium-sized enterprises (SME). Although considerable attention is being given to the micro-level practices of communities of software developers in the open source movement in the research literature, insufficient attention is being given to how these actors develop and maintain sustainable relationships with other actors with whom they must interact to introduce viable service innovations. As these relationships develop, new institutions or "working rules"--as John R. Commons might have designated them--begin to emerge to manage the governance requirements for such initiatives.

In this paper Commons' perspective on the origins of "working rules" is employed as a complement to more situated accounts of the emergent practices of actors involved in a European Commission--supported project aimed at creating a sustainable open source Internet-based platform for SME business services. The case is of particular interest because there are no "off-the-shelf" templates from which effective "working rules" can be taken to assist in building governance institutions.

Working Rules and Institutions

Commons' (1924, 1934) work oil collective action provides particularly helpful insights into the evolution of institutions of governance in part because his analysis does not rely on strong rationalist assumptions such as those underpinning the theory of collective action developed by Mancur Olson. (1) Commons defined institutions as "collective action in control, liberation and expansion of individual action" (1931, 1). He treated institutions as "negotiated orders" and observed that emerging institutions involve new forms of collective action because they link individuals together within new constellations of relationships.

If collective action is to occur and be sustained, Commons argued that the different actors involved must negotiate "working rules" to govern their actions. It is through these negotiations, he suggested, that any form of collective action is feasible at all. (2) He regarded scarcity and conflict as social phenomena that create a need for institutions. When scarce resources lead to conflict and competition, these can be mediated by institutions that foster cooperation. Cooperation was seen as arising, not from a convergence or harmony of individual interests or harmony within social groups as social capital theorists often suggest (Puttman 1993), but from the intentional decisions of the actors involved. Thus, cooperation "involves the gradual discovery that social co-operation rests, not upon a divinely appointed or 'natural' harmony of interests, but upon a state of order that men learn to establish among themselves" (Commons in Mitchell 1935, 651). Co-operation is best regarded therefore as learned behavior arising out of social interaction.

The establishment of "working rules" was seen as the result of learning. Transactions were understood as being rich and complex relationships involving intersubjective experience that shapes ideas and outcomes among individuals with different understandings, goals, preferences, and, importantly in the present context, access to various bodies of knowledge. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Collective Action, Institutionalism, and the Internet
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.