Thomas Kestler: How Imagination Takes Power. The Motivational Foundations of Collective Action in Social Movement Mobilization. [Abstract]

The foundations of collective action and agency in large groups remain a challenging theoretical problem. Why are individuals willing to contribute to a common goal, even though their contribution may have little impact? This paper aims to answer this question by explicating the motivational mechanisms that facilitate collective action and elucidating the underlying conditions and processes using social movement mobilization as an example. The mechanisms responsible for modifying motivation and action orientations in large-scale collective action are explicated at the level of individual structures of intentionality and specified as imagination and plural self-awareness. These mechanisms create the mental prerequisites for collective action by modifying two crucial determinants of action orientations: self-efficacy and intentional control. Recurring to the case of the German environmental movement, we demonstrate that collective agency arises when a shared imaginary takes shape, and plural self-awareness gives way to common action orientations through the catalyzing effect of an external synchronizing stimulus.

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