Collective Action Theory and the Dynamics of Complex Societies
Annual Review of Anthropology
Annual Reviews, Inc.
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DeMarrais, E., & Earle, T. (2017). Collective Action Theory and the Dynamics of Complex Societies. Annual Review of Anthropology, 46 183-201. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-anthro-102116-041409
Collective action theory, as formulated in the social sciences, posits rational social actors who regularly assess the actions of others to inform their own decisions to cooperate. In anthropological archaeology, collective action theory is now being used to investigate the dynamics of large-scale polities of the past. Building on the work of Margaret Levi, collective action theorists argue that the more principals (rulers) depended upon the populace for labor, tribute, or other revenues, the greater the agency (or ‘voice’) a population had in negotiating public benefits. In this review, we evaluate collective action theory, situating it in relation to existing theoretical approaches that address cooperation, consensus-building, and non-elite agency in the past. We draw specific attention to the importance of analyzing agency at multiple scales, as well as to investigating the ways that institutions articulate shared interests and order socio-political and economic interaction. Finally, we argue for a new synthesis of political economy approaches with collective action theory.
collective action theory, cooperation, political economy, institutions, power relations, anthropological archaeology
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External DOI: https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-anthro-102116-041409
This record's URL: https://www.repository.cam.ac.uk/handle/1810/264524