Revolutions and rational choice: A critical discussion

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3 May 2024

Since the early studies of Olson (The logic of collective action, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1971/1965) and Tullock (Public Choice 11:89–99, 1971), who first defined the paradox of revolution, there has been a great deal of relevant work based on rational choice theory. While the main point of this research is to investigate solutions to this apparent paradox, its overall contribution is the provision of a rich analysis of revolutions in the light of rational choice. This article provides an overview of the literature over the last fifty years, highlighting the richness and complexity of the issues underlying the paradox and, more generally, collective action. The emphasis is placed on the salient points of what this literature and its evolution teach us about revolutionary commitment.