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Rationality in Collective Action

Philosophy of the Social Sciences, Vol. 36, No. 1, pp. 3-17, 2006

Posted: 14 Dec 2007  

Margaret P. Gilbert

University of California, Irvine

Date Written: December 12, 2007


Collective action is interpreted as a matter of people doing something together, and it is assumed that this involves their having a collective intention to do that thing together. The account of collective intention for which the author has argued elsewhere is presented. In terms that are explained, the parties are jointly committed to intend as a body that such-and-such. Collective action problems in the sense of rational choice theory - problems such as the various forms of coordination problem and the prisoner's dilemma - are then considered. An explanation is given of how, when such a problem is interpreted in terms of the parties' inclinations, a suitable collective intention resolves the problem for agents who are rational in a broad sense other than the technical sense of game theory.

Keywords: Collective Action, Game Theory, Intention, Rationality, Social Philosophy

Suggested Citation

Gilbert, Margaret P., Rationality in Collective Action (December 12, 2007). Available at SSRN:

Margaret P. Gilbert (Contact Author)

University of California, Irvine ( email )

Humanities Office Building
Irvine, CA 92697-4555
United States


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