The structural embeddedness of collective goods: Connection and coalitions in exchange networks

Sociological Theory 23 (4):386-407 (2005)
Abstract
The growing body of literature on coalitions in exchange networks has addressed issues such as the kind of social dilemmas posed and how structurally disadvantaged actors overcome free-rider problems. We add to this stream of research by focusing explicitly on what low-power actors can gain from collective action. We offer theory that predicts whether actors can gain a collective good by forming coalitions and, if so, the size of that good, for all types of network connection. The results from new experiments yield strong support for the predictions. Results show that (1) collective goods are latent in some, but not all, types of exchange structures; (2) when present, collective good size is determined by connection type; and (3) these goods are made manifest through collective action. Among other phenomena, the theory explains why networks that generate identical exchange ratios when participants act independently can produce different size collective goods when they act collectively. This article concludes with a discussion of implications, limitations, and directions for future research
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