Cover of The Political Economy of Collective Action, Inequality, and Development by William D. Ferguson
The Political Economy of Collective Action, Inequality, and Development
William D. Ferguson


May 2020
448 pages.

Hardcover ISBN: 9781503604612

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Excerpts and More

This book examines how a society that is trapped in stagnation might initiate and sustain economic and political development. In this context, progress requires the reform of existing arrangements, along with the complementary evolution of informal institutions. It involves enhancing state capacity, balancing broad avenues for political input, and limiting concentrated private and public power. This juggling act can only be accomplished by resolving collective-action problems (CAPs), which arise when individuals pursue interests that generate undesirable outcomes for society at large. Merging and extending key perspectives on CAPs, inequality, and development, this book constructs a flexible framework to investigate these complex issues. By probing four basic hypotheses related to knowledge production, distribution, power, and innovation, William D. Ferguson offers an analytical foundation for comparing and evaluating approaches to development policy. Navigating the theoretical terrain that lies between simplistic hierarchies of causality and idiosyncratic case studies, this book promises an analytical lens for examining the interactions between inequality and development. Scholars and researchers across economic development and political economy will find it to be a highly useful guide.

About the author

William D. Ferguson is the Gertrude B. Austin Professor of Economics at Grinnell College. He is the author of Collective Action and Exchange: A Game Theoretic Approach to Contemporary Political Economy (Stanford, 2013).

"Economic prosperity is always and everywhere a product of human cooperation. This accessible and fascinating book provides a treasure trove of insights into how cooperation succeeds or fails to bootstrap its way to the stable, effective institutions that are required for growth and development."

—Eric Beinhocker, Executive Director, Institute for New Economic Thinking, University of Oxford

"Development failure is, at its root, a failure of collective action. This excellent book applies the tools of game theory to shed systematic light on circumstances that promote or hinder social coordination. One of its great strengths is the development of a broad typology of institutional settlements, permitting contextual analysis."

—Dani Rodrik, Harvard University

"Collective action is an age-old human concern. In today's world, which is an amalgam of globalization and fractiousness never seen before, it has acquired a new urgency. There is an awareness that not just development but human survival depends on society's capacity to solve its collective action problems. William Ferguson's superb new book draws on game theory, economics, and political science to present a state-of-the-art commentary on this important subject. This is a book that will be widely read by students, I am sure, and by policy makers, I hope."

—Kaushik Basu, Cornell University