Rational Choice Models of Political Protest
This chapter discusses the rational choice theory to explain why individuals take part in legal and illegal forms of political protest. A “coercion” model of collective protest is implausible, however, since most dissident groups have sufficient resources to force very many average citizens to join the movement against their will. The rational individual will compare the benefits and costs of protest with those of inactivity and choose the course of action that maximizes expected utility. Individuals participating in legal or illegal protest often have relatively strong preferences for an alternative social order or, put differently, the existing political system is considered by them to be a public bad. The chapter presents data referring to the hypothesis that public good variables, weighted by perceived influence, are incentives for legal and illegal protest. If public good variables are weighted by “efficacy of legal protest” the respective product terms correlate higher with legal than with illegal protest.