Summary: The ability of citizens to act collectively plays a central role in major debates in the political economy of development, including the causes and consequences of democratization and clientelism. This essay uses two lines of research to underscore the importance of explicitly introducing the organization of collective action into these debates. Exhaustive research on the management of open access resources demonstrates that citizens' ability to act collectively depends on non-trivial organizational arrangements that allow leaders to sanction free-riding and allow members to replace leaders if they shirk. Other research demonstrates wide variability in the organization of political parties. In countries where political parties do not have these two organizational characteristics, public policies are less friendly to economic development. This evidence suggests that in future research on democracy, state-building and development, citizen organization should be a central object of analysis.
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