…Chong (1991:50) argues that self-interested “reputational concerns” motivate participation. Since “people expect consistency from us, we tend to oblige by forging and living up to our reputations. And as Socrates advised, the easiest way to maintain a reputation is to become the person you want others to think you are.” Participation is a rational bid to gain the benefits that accrue to those who share a collective identity. Friedman & McAdam (1992) similarly connect collective identity to self-oriented rational action. Highly regarded roles within communities may come to be linked with activism in a way that makes participation a requirement of that role. In the early civil rights movement, activism was linked with-normatively required of churchgoers; in 1960, student became linked to activist, became a “prized social identity” which supplied the selective incentives to participate. But arguments like these, designed to show that cultural meanings and emotions are not logically incompatible with rational-actor models, yield convoluted causal pictures: We try to become an altruistic person because it is in our interest to seem one, yet it is hard to seem one without actually being one. Why not simply admit the emotional satisfactions of collective identity (Jasper 1997:23-29)? Teske (1997:121) mediates between the loyalty and self-interest models, arguing that we err in seeing self-interested and moral action as opposed. Activism for many people is a way to construct a desirable self.
Francesa Polletta and James M. Jasper, 2009, Collective Identity and Social Movements, p. 290