The Cost of Inaction and the Collective Action of Disadvantaged Minority Groups

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 09:00
Location: Hörsaal 27 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Irit HARBOUN, Ben Gurion University, Israel
Different theories offer varying explanations of the motivations for collective action, regarding emotional and instrumental factors. However, in the case of disadvantaged minority groups, longstanding conflict with the majority, a closed political opportunity structure and the difficulty of acquiring resources increase the costs and risks of the action. In light of these obstacles, what factors keep the involved in a sustained struggle? We argue that the development of such a collective action is a function of the perceptions of the group's leaders about the costs of inaction and the level of the group’s solidarity, which is a fundamental component of social capital. Actually, the entrepreneurs' evaluation of inaction includes the instrumental cost of the status quo combined with the cost of giving up on symbolic goals such as recognition of their collective identity (by the state) and its formulation.

This argument relies on the connection between the cost of inaction and "relational goods". Relational goods can take many forms, such as social approval, the desire to be recognized or accepted by others, friendship and its utilities and so on. These goods, which depend upon interactions among peoples and require reciprocity, can only be enjoyed if shared with others. Thus, inaction threatens the "relational goods" and symbolic utility motivates the development of collective action.

To examine this argument, depth interviews had been taken with leaders of collective actions in the field of education, carried by Arab minority in Israel. Focus on education was derived from the fact that it is the arena whereby the state can influence the identity and future socio-economic mobility of its young citizens.