The Economics of Collective Action

The Economics of Collective Action

The Economics of Collective Action

The Economics of Collective Action

Excerpt

Economics deals with the problems of mankind as they go about trying to make a living or get rich. Thus the economists are interested primarily in the problems which arise from the production of wealth and the distribution of income. Virtually all economists would agree with this generalized statement. The disagreements come over how these problems should be approached.

We begin our investigations into economic problems through collective action. Our experience and observations over sixty years teach us that collective action is inclusive. Other persons may call this social. But collective action is the general and dominating fact of social life. Human beings are born into this process of collective action and become individualized by the rules of collective action. Thus an institution is collective action in control, liberation, and expansion of individual action.

From investigations into economic activities we conclude that the human will is central to economic life. Human activity is behavioristically the human will in action. Consequently the stragetic relation in economic activity is the place where the wills of men meet. This meeting of the wills can be analyzed in terms of the transaction. A transaction is two-sided: it is joint action. In the transaction the terms of performance are agreed upon; or performance is executed according to working rules previously established or agreed upon.

In this way our theories of economics come to center on transactions and working roles, on the problems of organization, and on the way collective action becomes organized into going concerns. But these forms of collective action are not something different from what people do. The organization of activity is simply the more stabilized aspects of activity. The form is a part of the process.

In modern capitalism the most important stabilized economic relations are those of private property. But property relations are not something fixed and permanent. They are undergoing change . . .

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