Thursday, 21 October 2010

Let's hear it for a heroine - the great commoner, Elinor Ostrom

It is many years since I first discovered Elinor Ostrom.  I discovered her as I began to trawl the internet on the topic of The Commons.  Trawling the internet on this topic can bring up all sorts of things.  Academically, The Commons (and I do love the old English term - so much of our culture, our history, our economic trading capacity is tied up in that term) is now referred to as Common Pool Resources. I discovered Elinor through this wonderful resource which has gone from strength to strength since I first discovered it - The Digital Library of the Commons which reposes at Indiana University which also gives house-room to Elinor Ostrom

I have found Elinor Ostrom's work - often done in collaboration with her husband and with others - to be enlightening and pace-setting.  Little did I dream, though, that her work would be seriously considered for the Nobel Prize.  It seems to me that her work does not fit or sit comfortably with dominant economic paradigms.  I feel she is far from being a text-book economist.  But in 2009 the Royal Swedish Academy of Science in its wisdom awarded the Nobel Prize for Economics to Elinor Ostrom.  In the history of the prize only forty women have been awarded the Nobel and Elinor Ostrom is the only woman to receive the prize for Economics

Economics is frequently referred to with Thomas Carlyle's derogatory term,  "the dismal science".  Ostrom's work, it seems to me, is filled with fairness, practicality, and hope for ordinary human beings.  

Her work explores contradictions.  I take a strong interest in water issues and I am a strong proponent of Australia rebundling land and water and making it a part of The Commons and a human right.  For support for this view, I looked to Ostrom.  I discovered that water trading (albeit small scale and localised when compared to Australia in the 21st century) has a long and successful tradition.  So, in that sense, I have to qualify/modify my views - and remember that, in the human condition, there is little new under the sun.

So, Networkers, if you have got this far please go here for an interview with Ostrom - which is what set this post off in the first place.  And could I ask your assistance?  I am collecting Australian material relating to The Commons - in any shape or form, ancient (Aboriginal), old, and modern.  Please go here to have a look at the collection so far.  I am particularly interested in commonly held land (places like Town Commons and Stock Routes) or resources which were once part of The Commons but have been alienated to become private property.
Related reading:
 Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action (Political Economy of Institutions and Decisions)
Understanding Institutional Diversity
Working Together: Collective Action, the Commons, and Multiple Methods in Practice
Rules, Games, and Common-Pool Resources (Ann Arbor Books)
Trust And Reciprocity: Interdisciplinary Lessons For Experimental Research (Russell Sage Foundation Series on Trust (Numbered))
Understanding Knowledge as a Commons: From Theory to Practice
Foundations of Social Capital (Critical Studies in Economic Institutions Series)

Further reading:

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