Cover of Collective Action and Exchange by William D. Ferguson
Collective Action and Exchange
A Game-Theoretic Approach to Contemporary Political Economy
William D. Ferguson


448 pp.
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Cloth ISBN: 9780804770033
Paper ISBN: 9780804770040
Digital ISBN: 9780804785563
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Excerpts and More

In Collective Action and Exchange: A Game-Theoretic Approach to Contemporary Political Economy, William D. Ferguson presents a comprehensive political economy text aimed at advanced undergraduates in economics and graduate students in the social sciences. The text utilizes collective action as a unifying concept, arguing that collective-action problems lie at the foundation of market success, market failure, economic development, and the motivations for policy.

Ferguson draws on information economics, social preference theory, cognition theory, institutional economics, as well as political and policy theory to develop this approach. The text uses classical, evolutionary, and epistemic game theory, along with basic social network analysis, as modeling frameworks. These models effectively bind the ideas presented, generating a coherent theoretic approach to political economy that stresses sometimes overlooked implications.

About the author

William D. Ferguson is the Gertrude B. Austin Professor of Economics at Grinnell College, where he teaches courses on labor economics, policy analysis, applied game theory, and political economy.

"The main accomplishment of the book is to establish collective action problems as a way to look at quandaries in political economy. It goes way beyond the standard models of self-interested rationality in economics and deals in detail with behavioral models of preference."

—Sourav Bhattacharya, University of Pittsburgh

"Political economy has evolved in the past two decades from verbal gymnastics to a scientific study of how people form groups to solve collective action problems. Ferguson's book is a forceful introduction to the analytical techniques involved in this intellectual revolution, together with a presentation of the evidence supporting various models. It exhibits a deep appreciation for the long road ahead in improving our understanding of the political aspects of social life."

—Herbert Gintis, Santa Fe Institute, Central European University, and author of Game Theory Evolving

"Collective Action and Exchange is a remarkably effective pedagogical tool. Ferguson's presentation highlights common themes that are too often hidden in specialized treatments of political economy. Particularly compelling is the way that he integrates the insights of Elinor Ostrom's Nobel prize-winning research on governing the commons into simple models based on core principles. This book demonstrates the value of modeling as an approach to policy analysis, and offers a power suite of economic tools to help us understand a wide range of individual and collective decisions."

—Michael D. McGinnis, Former Director, The Vincent and Elinor Ostrom Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis, Indiana University

"Why can economics courses be so dull when the economy itself is positively riveting and, recently, economic theory has bristled with novel insights? Ferguson's Collective Action and Exchange brings the excitement into the classroom, introducing students to some of the best research on networks, cooperation, institutions, and information."

—Samuel Bowles, author, Microeconomics: Behavior, Institutions, and Evolution