Rowman and Littlefield International

Choice, Rules and Collective Action

The Ostroms on the Study of Institutions and Governance

Edited by Paul Dragos Aligica

The book puts together works representing the main analytical and conceptual vehicles articulated by the Ostroms to create the Bloomington School of public choice and institutional theory.

Paperback ISBN: 9781910259139 Release date: May 2014
£30.00 €41.00 $49.00

Pages: 312

ECPR Press

This volume brings a set of key works by Elinor Ostrom, co-recipient of the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences, together with those of Vincent Ostrom, one of the originators of Public Choice political economy. The two scholars introduce and expound their approaches and analytical perspectives on the study of institutions and governance. The book puts together works representing the main analytical and conceptual vehicles articulated by the Ostroms to create the Bloomington School of public choice and institutional theory. Their endeavours sought to ‘re-establish the priority of theory over data collection and analysis’, and to better integrate theory and practice. These efforts are illustrated via selected texts, organised around three themes: the political economy and public choice roots of their work in creating a distinct branch of political economy; the evolutionary nature of their work that led them to go beyond mainstream public choice, thereby enriching the public choice tradition itself; and, finally, the foundational and epistemological dimensions and implications of their work


List of Figures and Tables vii

Acknowledgements ix

Foreword by Dario Castiglione xi

Elinor and Vincent Ostrom and the Workshop xix

Introduction: The Ostroms’ Research Program for the Study of

Institutions and Governance: Theoretical and Epistemic Foundations 1

Paul Dragos Aligica and Filippo Sabetti

Part One: Public Choice and Political Economy

Chapter One: Public Choice: A Different Approach to the Study

of Public Administration 23

Vincent Ostrom and Elinor Ostrom

Chapter Two: Polycentricity: The Structural Basis of Self-Governing

Systems 45

Vincent Ostrom

Chapter Three: The Quest for Meaning in Public Choice 61

Elinor Ostrom and Vincent Ostrom

Part Two: Beyond Public Choice: Institutions, Rules and

Governance Systems

Chapter Four: An Agenda for the Study of Institutions 97

Elinor Ostrom

Chapter Five: A Behavioural Approach to the Rational Choice

Theory of Collective Action 121

Elinor Ostrom

Chapter Six: Beyond Markets and States: Polycentric Governance

of Complex Economic Systems 167

Elinor Ostrom

Part Three: Epistemic and Social Philosophical Perspectives

Chapter Seven: Beyond Positivism 213

Elinor Ostrom

Chapter Eight: A Conceptual-Computational Logic for Federal

Systems of Governance 227

Vincent Ostrom

Chapter Nine: Epistemic Choice and Public Choice 243

Vincent Ostrom

Index 271

Elinor Ostrom (1933–2012) received many high honors in her long and productive career, including a Nobel Prize. But perhaps her greatest legacy will be through the hundreds of students, researchers, and colleagues who learned from and were inspired by her.

She was Distinguished Professor and Arthur F. Bentley Professor of Political Science in the College of Arts and Sciences, and professor in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs. She was founding director and senior research director of The Vincent and Elinor Ostrom Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis.

She is the only woman to receive the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel, which she shared with Oliver Williamson in 2009. The Nobel committee awarded her the prize 'for her analysis of economic governance, especially the commons.'

Ostrom was known for her remarkable energy and appetite for work, her down-to-earth manner, and her strong loyalty to students and colleagues.

Born August 7, 1933, she worked her way through college and earned a PhD in political science from UCLA, despite being warned that women were unlikely to work in academia. After becoming a faculty member at the University of Indiana, Bloomington in 1965, she conducted research on topics ranging from urban police departments to groundwater basins, irrigation systems, pasture lands, forests, and fisheries.

In her book
Governing the Commons and in many other publications, she demonstrated that groups can effectively manage resources without resorting to government control or private ownership. Elinor and Vincent Ostrom received the University Medal, the highest award bestowed by Indiana University, in 2010.

Elinor Ostrom was named in
Time magazine’s list of the world’s 100 most influential people in April 2012.

About Vincent Ostrom
Vincent Alfred Ostrom (1919–2012) was an internationally acclaimed scholar of democratic governance, whose work combined theory and practice, and yielded important insights about the management of natural resources, cities and villages, and international institutions.

He was also a highly regarded teacher who, with his wife Elinor Ostrom, nurtured the network of collaborative, transdisciplinary scholars, faculty colleagues, and graduate students known as the Bloomington School.

Vincent Ostrom was the Arthur F Bentley Professor Emeritus of Political Science in the College of Arts and Sciences. He was co-director of The Vincent and Elinor Ostrom Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis until his retirement in 2003.

He was a pioneer of the 'polycentric' approach to government — the idea that overlapping, concurrent decision making can make for the best choices in public economies. He was also among the founders of public choice theory, but soon came to disagree with some of its basic premises, leading to the creation of what has become known as the 'Bloomington School of Political-Economy,' which combines public choice theory with polycentrism and a strong measure of empiricism.

He helped draft Article VIII of the Alaska Constitution, which enshrined the idea that the people of Alaska would own the state’s natural resources.

Born September 25, 1919, in Nooksack, Washington, he attended Los Angeles City College and earned a BA, MA, and PhD from UCLA. He worked as a high school teacher; a professor at the University of Wyoming, the University of Oregon, and UCLA; and a resource associate at Resources for the Future.

He came to Indiana University Bloomington as a professor of political science in 1965; eight years later, he and Elinor Ostrom founded the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis. He received the American Political Science Association’s John Gaus Distinguished Lecturer Award, the Daniel Elazar Distinguished Scholar Award, IU’s University Medal and the Herman B Wells Visionary Award; the latter two were presented jointly to Vincent and Elinor Ostrom in 2010.

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