Economics and groups: methodological individualism and collective action

  • Anna Ząbkowicz Polish Academy of Sciences


Research background: Paradoxically enough, a large body of contemporary research relies on methodological individualism in order to explain collective activities and decision making. The mainstream of economic theories hardly gives any background to the issue of group activities.
Purpose of the article: The aim of this paper is to investigate which economic theories have addressed the problem of collective action, and how social scientists deal with it contemporarily.
Methods: Consequently, the research relies on the study of heterodox literature concerned with the subject, referring to original works of most respected authors. The review is carried on systematically, respecting two competing approaches regarding methods and social philosophy.
Findings and Value added: Studies on collective action are a domain of institutionalism, the "old" one and the "new" one. Have it both ways, institutionalist studies are rather imperfect in explaining this crucial phenomenon of economic reality.


Becker, G. S. (1983). A theory of competition among pressure groups for political influence. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 98(3).
Blaug, M. (1995). Metodologia ekonomii. Warszawa: PWN.
Boudon, R. (2008). Efekt odwrócenia. Niezamierzone skutki działań społecznych. Warszawa: Oficyna Naukowa.
Bowles, S., & Gintis, H. (2008). The evolutionary basis of collective action. In B. R. Weingast and D. A. Wittman (Eds.). The Oxford handbook of political economy. New York: Oxford University Press. doi: 10.1093/oxfordhb/97 80199548477.003.0053.
Buchanan, J., & Tullock, G. (1997). The calculus of consent. Logical foundations of constitutional democracy. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press.
Buchanan, J. M. (2008). Politics and scientific enquiry: retrospective on a half-century. In B. R. Weingast and D. A. Wittman (Eds.). The Oxford handbook of political economy. New York: Oxford University Press. doi: 10.1093/oxfordhb /9780199548477.003.0055.
Chmielewski, P. (2011). Homo agens. Instytucjonalizm w naukach społecznych. Warszawa: Wydawnictwo Poltext.
Coleman, J. (1993). Racjonalna rekonstrukcja społeczeństwa. Studia Socjologiczne, 1.
Commons, J. R. (1934). Institutional economics. Its place in political economy. New York: The Macmillan Company.
Commons, J. R. (1936). Institutional economics. American Economic Review, 26(1).
Commons, J. R. (1968). Legal foundations of capitalism. Madison, Milwaukee, London: The University of Wisconsin Press.
Douglas, M. (2010). Jak myślą instytucje. Warszawa: Wydawnictwo Naukowe PWN.
Downs, A. (1957). An economic theory of democracy. New York: Harper Collins Publishers.
Eucken, W. (1951). The foundations of economics. History and theory in analysis of economic reality. Chicago, Illinois: The Chicago University Press.
Furubotn, E. G., & Richter, R. (2000). Institutions and economic theory. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press.
Myrdal, G. (1982). Znaczenie i wartość ekonomii instytucjonalne. In K. Dopfer (Ed.). Ekonomia w przyszłości. Warszawa: PWN.
North, D. C. (1995). The new institutional economics and development. Norway: The International Association for the Study of Common Property.
Olson, M. (1995). The logic of collective action. Public goods and theory of groups. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.
Ostrom, E. (1998). A behavioral approach to the rational choice theory of collective action. American Political Science Review, 92(1).
Ostrom, E. (2005). Understanding institutional diversity. Princeton, Oxford: Princeton University Press.
Ostrom, E., Gardner, R., & Walker, J. (1994). Rules, games and common-pool resources. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press.
Szacki, J. (1999). Nauki społeczne wobec wielkiej zmiany. In J. Kurczewska (Ed.). Zmiana społeczna. Teoria i doświadczenie polskie. Warszawa: Wydawnictwo IFiS PAN.
Vanberg, V. (1989). Carl Menger's evolutionary and John R. Commons' collective action approach to institutions: a comparison. Review of Political Economy, l(1). doi: 10.1080/09538258900000025.
How to Cite
Ząbkowicz, A. (2017). Economics and groups: methodological individualism and collective action. Oeconomia Copernicana, 8(1), 7-20. doi:10.24136/oc.v8i1.1