Institutional collective action in an ecology of games

Mark Lubell, Adam Douglas Henry, Mike McCoy

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

5 Scopus citations


The main goal of this volume is to explain how governance authorities in a particular policy arena overcome fragmentation and solve vertical and horizontal collective action problems. Our chapter addresses this goal in two ways: first, we apply Norton Long’s (1958) analysis of the ecology of games played in territorially defined metropolitan areas to regional governance, and second, we analyze the relationships between collaboration networks, trust, and political influence in the context of regional land-use and transportation policy. The central argument of the ecology of games framework is that local political outcomes emerge from actors pursuing their self-interest in multiple, interdependent, and rule-structured games. The resulting decisions lead to the type of fragmentation and decision externalities discussed throughout this volume. Collaborative partnerships and networks are considered potential self-organizing mechanisms for overcoming these dilemmas, and our empirical study explicitly examines the resulting patterns of cooperation, trust, and political influence. Our use of the ecology of games metaphor is partly a reaction to the burgeoning social science literature that examines the dynamics and effectiveness of collaborative processes as new institutions for political decision making. This literature itself has emerged in response to (and perhaps also partly caused) the widespread appearance of collaborative policy and its aliases in nearly every policy subsystem, especially environmental policy (O'Leary, Gerard, and Bingham 2006). These collaborative institutions are designed to alleviate many symptoms of institutional collective action (ICA) problems discussed in this book.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationSelf-Organizing Federalism
Subtitle of host publicationCollaborative Mechanisms to Mitigate Institutional Collective Action Dilemmas
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages32
ISBN (Electronic)9780511642319
ISBN (Print)9780521764933
StatePublished - Jan 1 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


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