eo’s rules for radicals

eo rules for radicals.png

by Derek Wall



1 – eo’s radical life


commons are collective forms of ownership

commons.. ownership

? i don’t see ownership in commons


elinor won the nobel for ‘demo-ing how local property can be successfully managed by local commons w/o any regulation by central authorities or privatization’ .. this was radical stuff.. (ie: vs tragedy of commons).. however.. she was not a leftist in a traditional sense and did not see commons as a straightforward alt to private ownership in all circumstances

tragedy of commons


according to ostrom indigenous people and others have often maintained commons for hundreds or even thousands of years w/o destroying these environments..

indigenous people


she was very clear that her discipline was political economy not economics. she saw economics as powerfully shaped by institutions, so in turn saw herself specifically as institutionalist.. institutions are sets of rules created by human beings; economist sometimes forget that economic activity doesn’t just happen, but is shaped by political institutions too..


marxist economist ben fine saying.. she ignores issues of class struggle/power..and at worst, her work is a form of ‘economic colonialism’..

indeed.. she focused on micro issues.. looking at the rules that might be put in place to help/hinder conservation local.. of why common land might be enclosed.. much of her work appears dry/technical.. using unfamiliar language of game theory, additional formal models and forays into mathematics..

fine contends.. she applies mainstream market based econ to new areas.. potentially taming the commons w her analysis..

she proudly rejected the notions of utopias, policy manifests or demands.. she seems unlikely author of a set of rules for radicals..



she developed a body of research that can be used to defend the commons/commoners.. while she felt there was a possibility commons could be abused.. and that this point had to be taken seriously, she argued that this dilemma could be overcome..

equally radical and useful is her notion that econ and politics, potentially, move beyond the market and the state..

marxism in practice seems to suggest that central planning is an alt to the market, rather than promoting marx’s anti state perspective..

the argument is that if state socialism fails, more market is needed and if market fails, more state intervention is desirable.. the notion that there is something other .. is apparently unthinkable.. ostrom.. in contrast.. explicitly saw econ as something that.. while including states and markets.. could go beyond them..

hearing michel here.. (on why he’s not letting go of them)


she had an unorthodox and refreshing approach to ed and research.. she had no time for the kind of academic work that was removed from the population that it sought to study… her perspective was based not on telling but listening.. dethroning academic experts and asking academics to take note of the people..

quiet enough to see

her belief that econ should use qualitative data to understand human behavior rather than relying on math methods was also far from conventional


she was inspired by .. lexis de tocqueville.. 19th cent.. it reflected their idea of participation based on associations made by local people rather than central govt..

vincent (her husband): people are presumed.. to have self governing capabilities..


(spinoza ish) – elinor’s central question: how can fallible human beings achieve and sustain self -governing entities and self-governing ways of life as well as sustaining ecological systems..


the intention of elinor’s texts was to encourage ways of dealing w practical problems of resource management


her question was how..given the existence of common pool resources.. these resources could be conserved..

have\need needs becomes easier/natural/instinctual if everyone is truly free.. so not seeking excess to fill voice.. ie: via eudaimoniative surplus


(on the why of this book and on elinor being a pragmatist).. alt’s are not self evident, they need much consideration and careful design


comparing her to murray bookchin and paulo freire

2 – the commons: from tragedy to triumph


on hardin’s (tragedy of the commons) thing being population control.. hardin  argued that environ problems are largely a product of population growth.. which would damage environ

dunbar and h\g turning to agri (from scale p 386) and then.. my take on jo freeman ness


on teaching children not to share.. hardin .. ie: the air and water have become polluted because they are treated as commons.. men pay most attention to what is their own.. they care less for what is common.. thinking others will do it

narrative gloss on a logical argument that suggests that w/o strong coercive action, environmental destruction is inevitable..


in opposing this.. elinor.. was careful to distinguish between common pool resources and common pool property


continued study suggested to her that there was no blueprint for a successful system of commons management..  ultimately however.. she came up w 8 design rules:

1\ boundaries.. to reduce problem of free riders

2\ local rules

3\ commoners need to be able to participate in making/modifying rules

4\ monitoring for policing

5\ graduated sanctions (punishment) for breaking rules

6\ conflict resolution

7\ rights to (self/local) organize

8\ nested.. work w/in wider system

3 – climate change, ecology and green politics


ostrom spent much of her career thinking about the prisoner’s dilemma and how cooperation could be nurtured..

set people .. truly free.. that free space will nurture our natural interconnectedness.. to dance.. something we haven’t yet tried..


not many thinkers combine support for using fewer resources w a caution about the potential pitfalls and unintended consequences of environmental policy making

4 – beyond markets and states


elinor not anti capitalist.. strongly pro market.. efficient way of distributing goods/services..


economists suggest that their discipline is a science and it provides an accurate account of human behaviour, which proves that we are self interested, competitive and largely disregard the needs of others.. capitalism is seen as the only viable econ system and alts are dismissed as naive..  while ostrom was not anti capitalist.. she saw economic systems as diverse..

econ derived from greek ‘oikos’.. which means household.. same root as ‘eco’ in ecology..

oikos ness

econ is essentially welfare maximization given limits and scarcity.. by welfare economists mean human well being, so intrinsically econ isn’t about profit making or how businesses grow but attempts to study how the whole of humanity can gain a better life..t

a nother way.. sans measuring..

econ has been defined as how scarce resources can be used to meet unlimited human wants..  economists generally assume that resources, such as land.. materials.. . are finite.. thus our collective ability to produce goods is limited; *we cannot make enough to provide for all our needs.

*not true.. we can.. no..? we just can’t for our current intoxicated wants

as there is never enough to satisfy our wants, choices have to be made.. exon tends to focus on rationing and choices..

econ has become a largely mathematical discipline..t it is assumed that while subjective wants cannot be directly measured, monetary values can be found and calculated..  econ employs a positivist method, positivism being the idea that only that which can be measured is worth studying

measuring things..

generally, economists have recognised two mechs for dealing w the linked problems of welfare, scarcity and resource allocation: states and markets..

the fact that ostrom focused on econ beyond markets and states probably cements her description as radical even if we ignore her other potential contributions..


markets are seen as providing a means of determining what to produce and who will get what is produced. markets, working by exchange of goods and services which are priced w money, are understood to be generally efficient by economists.. where markets fail, the state is brought in.. most economists prefer markets because they feel that states are inefficient at dealing w out economic needs..

david korten .. populariser of notion that markets work fairly well and even promote green values such as eco sustainability, democracy and equality. however, he believes that capitalism is like a cancer, an unnatural growth of a healthy competitive system that leads to monopoly power w huge corps putting competitors out of business, wrecking environ, pushing down pay and impoverishing communities..

dave korten


we can’t just assert that human beings are cooperative, but what ostrom did was to look at how we could encourage more coop behaviour

to me.. big issue here.. as.. i believe any need for incentives.. means we’re doing it wrong.. i believe we have to assume good.. or we we’ll never get to the dance.. (both from loss of energy.. and missed opp to sync)


elinor has suggested that the corporation is a commons, a view echoed by hardt and negri..

hardt.. negri

5 – deep democracy


her general point is that politics can be used to describe human decision making in general (how to decide how to share the cooking, cleaning and washing up duties..)

decision making.. rev of everyday life

she was sceptical of socialism if the term was associated w state power rather than popular participation..  elinor: i think my theory does challenge that any top down govt .. is unlikely to be able to solve many of the problems of resource sustainability in the world..


there is a knowledge problem w the state, states may employ experts who have little knowledge of local situations..t


ostrom agreed w hayek when he seemed to reject all planning; she did not think that the market was a perfect solution but she agreed w him that states might lack the knowledge to make good decisions


democracy for elinor was about people shaping the rules that govern our lives, not simply about delegating power to a minority of people to make the rules..t


winning (majority rule) is not the key problem for them (ostroms) in politics, providing a way of giving diff voices space is..t

2 convos.. as the day

as it could be

ie: hlb via 2 convos that io dance.. as the day..[aka: not part\ial.. for (blank)’s sake…]..  a nother way

on the need for diversity.. along w commons.. decision making et al

serendipity .. via curiosity as label.. and open to changing everyday


the ostrom approach to democracy also has similarities w .. murray bookchin.. he was also inspired by city states and promoted the idea of municipal confederalism..


bookchin’s ideas, in turn, have inspired the construction of a post state political system.. based on participatory democracy in rojava


accidental anarchist


the commune is the base level of rojava’s council system. in general, communes are made up of 30-400 households in a city, or a whole village in the country side. the entire population of the commune meets every two weeks and it elects a board. the board meets every week and all members of the commune are able to attend board meetings if they wish..all posts must be filled by a male and female co chair…

sounds like stuco.. too many meetings

however.. the difficult issue of minority rep remains


public (ie: meetings) consensus always oppresses someone(s)

6 – feminism and intersectionality


elinor: i’ve got pretty good sympathy for people who are not necessarily at the centre of civic appreciation..t

mech to listen to all the voices

as it could be

such anti essentialism chimes w other theorists who have advocated ecological politics and feminist commitment such as donna haraway


(elinor) rarely made specific statements about feminism but it imbues her thinking, which moved away from experts, generally male, to a method that promote listening and participation


as it could be – 2 convos


michael polanyi: knowledge is produced and science advance when different perspectives are allowed free play..t

gershenfeld sel.. whatever you want

graeber min max law

*anti essentialism is the rejection of the idea of an unchanging and permanent characteristic that establishes an id.. t.. often seen as subversive of any kind of radical political commitment.. values are seen in context and may be subject to change.. seen as promoting **anything goes..

*bravery to change mind.. marsh label law..the it is me.. **gershenfeld sel.. whatever you want

identity ness


domestic labor, often carried out by women, such as caring for children, the sick and the elderly, is more vital than banking but is not measured..

interpretive labor


mcclosky: one of the most effective rhetorical devices is to define away our opponent w an essentialism meaning.. so.. doesn’t have to listen to you.. or answer you..

the kind of work she (elinor) undertook simplicity followed that of feminist economists who argue that much of importance to women is invisible w/in the discipline..


the left in its diversity has argued that politics is about winning power, but once power is won, how can a cooperative society be built.. this was an important area of research for elinor

7 – trust and cooperation


competition drives efficiency. elinor ..while not disputing this, would argue that the short term pursuit of profit might come at the expense of other values and would tend to destroy the commons

i don’t believe competition gets to ultimate humane efficiency.. (ie: the energy we need most)..


the prisoner’s dilemma is a model made famous by .. john nash



ostrom challenged the pessimistic conclusions of the formal models using the work of robert axelrod whose research suggested that trust could be created by what he termed strategies of tit for tat.. used to overcome the prisoner’s dilemma

ugh.. thinking trust either is or isn’t.. if it’s measured/earned/tit-for-tatted.. it’s not trust

8 – science for the people


elinor: dogmas advanced in the name of science are no less dogmatic than other dogmas..

she tried to take a scientific approach to research but, above all, wanted to use intellectual work and education to promote self-org



paulo freire.. argued that ed was often elitist.. much education based on banking model.. teacher has knowledge which he fills student…. student is passive and gathers info like a bank account..



she (elinor) thought mathematical approaches are useful but insufficient


a good ie suggested by peter boettke.. the intro of seat belts.. rather than saving lives, increased death rates because more hazard encouraged drivers to drive more recklessly because they felt safer..

same w bike helmets


she (elinor) saw research as a commons.. she was particularly keen to promote knowledge sharing and was critical of intellectual copyright that prevented individuals and research teams from building  on the findings of pervious academic work..

ip ownership ness


in short, the intellectual trap occurs because academics are over confident in their models and assumptions.. science needs an injection of doubt and findings need to be seen in context

9 – transforming institutions


a commons, as a legal structure of property ownership, is an institution..

?.. i see commons/common ing as .. no ownership.. and too flued to be an institution

ostrom’s commons work was very much about mapping institutions..


institutions can be seen as games, understanding the rules precisely is a step towards wining the game..  elinor was of course interested in cooperative games, developing coop strategies rather than promoting winners and losers..

elinor: broadly defined, institutions are the prescriptions that humans use to organize all forms of repetitive and structured interactions including those w/in families, neighborhoods, markets, firms, sports leagues, churches, private association, and govts at all scales.. also.. shared concepts used by humans in repetitive situations organized ..t..by rules, norms and strategies..

by rules she meant ‘prescriptions (must, must not, or may) that are mutually understood and predictably enforced in particular settings..’  these are enforced by agents who can monitor and punish if they are broken.. in econ, rules include forms of legal regulation that firms must abide by ; minimum wage is an ie of a rule..

for her.. norms were more informal, essentially self reinforced rules, seen as allowing or preventing particular choices of behaviour.. strategies for her were ‘regularized plans that individuals might make’..  habits

the tit for tat strategy for ie.. sees individuals rewarding others who coop w them.. firms.. price war.. chess.. infinite number of strategies to win..

she suggested that describing institutions made up of such formal rules and more informal norms was difficult because they were often invisible.. ‘because institutions are fundamentally invisible, shared concepts that exist in the minds and routines of participants..


rules in form are less important than the rules in use..


if you think institutions are boring or irrelevant, watch the wire and thing again

David Simon


there are different institutional levels, and constitution making can be seen as setting up the rules that create an institutions..

human\e constitution ness


as marx argued, institutional rules are written and rewritten to change power relationships..

if we want real change though.. we can’t tit for tat rules.. ie: literally redefine rather than replace 500 policies w/500 policies in a district


institutional change is a vital tool for creating a more equal and ecological future. both ostrom and the radical authors negri and hardt see corporations as a form of legal commons..

ostrom also reminds us that if we construct institutional blueprints, failure is likely.. institutional analysis is important..  however, no one group is likely to have the ‘answer’.. institutional development should occur constantly and engage citizens in general

rev of everyday life..


vincent ostrom argued that because no one model worked perfectly in all circumstances.. communities need to keep adapting and reinventing institutions..

she (elinor) believed that  while we humans are imperfect and cannot design utopia, we can move beyond the institutions we are familiar with and build better futures..

everyone.. instigating utopia ..everyday.. as equity..

understanding how particular institutions work ..allow us to better challenge, change or conserve them.. a map of reality makes it easier for us to change reality

but too often.. keeps us from leaping.. (too stuck in assumptions and supposed to’s leading us to tweaking rather than systemic change) which is what (i believe) times are begging now..

10 – conflict and contestation


on criticism (which ostroms invited.. preferred it to silence) of ostrom’s work: the commons didnt’ fail because of a breakdown in trust and coop (one of elinor’s main points.. so she sought how to encourage trust and coop).. by the commoners but instead the commons were enclosed, stolen and shut down by capitalists, imperialist and various species of the rich and powerful..  the whole debate around the ‘the tragedy of the commons’ is perhaps irrelevant..  the micro political economy of managing the commons could be seen as a distraction..  the macro factors at the level of social class, historical change and states is what matters.. )theory is merely distraction unless linked to activity).. ostrom’s work, some critics might argue, is thus not a form of analysis but a form of forgetting..  or to be more precise, she is so focused on the individual trees, she misses  the forest..

gupta roadblock law


marx didn’t forget the trees.. his econ analysis in capital was the criminalisation of peasants who asserted their common right to pick up fallen wood in the forest..

the point is that in a capitalist econ system communal property and collective rights are progressively and often violently eroded..

the ostrom problem, to repeat, form a marxist perspective, is a non problem.. (commons are something we have to fight for.. tragedy is not misuse or failure .. but brutality of class warfare..)

in turn.. questions of coop and trust are products of larger social forces rather than the more local interaction of individuals.. the ostroms’ work was built on methodological individualism. we individuals are sovereign and free.. more structural analysis suggest that this is a false assumption..  spinoza: we are products of society and don’t have freedom to choose..

human beings are shaped by other human begins.. methodological individualism is basically false..  so the argument is that the macro factors are key and the micro largely derivative.. thus, crudely put, revolution is necessary to transform an entire social structure..  norms, rules and the rest are products of a social whole..

systemic ness begs we leap to a global do over..


vincent’s (ostrom) critique of lenin was that w revolution, a diff society would need to be created, but w/o a close attention to institutions this was impossible.. it is not enough to say the social transformation of revolution would give rise to the rules, norms, and practices that would do away with the state and intro a functioning communist society..

yeah.. i go with that.. do over.. designed to listen to and facil 7 bn people everyday.. so that rules/changes are made/remixed/disengaged-from.. everyday..

marx in his later writing became more and more interested in the indigenous and actual working commons..  instead of finishing his master work das kaptial, he engaged in the study of anthropology

equally elinor and vince, i feel, were defending methodological individualism in a fairly nuanced way. they didn’t see human beings as separate from structures or networks; after all their work is about human coop .. yet they argued that.. despite being dependent on others and being influenced by social factors, individuals have the ability to take choices and to make change…


while i am strongly critical of methodological individualism.. i’m aware it was used by the ostroms to argue for radical democracy..  there is a danger that critics of methodological individualism see some people as determined and others as determiners.. elite democracy isn’t working well at present, and even it if did, it is ethically and morally wrong..

both micro (ostrom) and macro (marx) views.. are useful approaches..

indeed.. zoom dance the basic needs via 2 convos.. everyday.. ie: networked individualism

both (ostrom and marx) were focused on some kind of political realms. this might seem a strange thing to say, as realism might be seen as the opposite of radicalism. yet both were interested in what could be achieved w/in specific social circumstance, rather than in blue sky, utopian thinking..


this means in turn that both are broadly materialists.. .. what can we specifically do.. was a question they both asked..

they were also interested in a scientific approach to social change and liberation..  the more we understand about society the more likely it will be that we can achieve a better society.. both were critical of simplistic understanding of what social science means..

well.. there’s black science of people/whales law.. we can get as scientific and studious and research as we want.. but if we’re not seeing the real picture.. ie: if the given ‘facts’ are ie: simulated.. then we’ll always be missing it

i think one way in which both can be criticised is around the issue of culture. marx might be perceived as downplaying culture. ostrom advocated a respect for complexity, and as well as ecology, economic motivations of various sorts, and institutions, she was aware of a culture element..  norms, which for her were unofficial rules, were a product of culture


my feeling is that while an institutional analysis and a macro analysis of social forces are necessary, culture needs to be given weight if we are to free ourselves and promote a better society .. human action is shaped by meaning, and culture shapes us and is shaped by us.. we need to discuss the mechs of how cultural politics works..

how it has worked.. or how it can work..?

*preferences are shaped by culture.. this is a fundamental problem for mainstream econ, even if we are rational to some extent and max what gives us wellbeing, what determines what gives us wellbeing..

*doesn’t have to be this way.. if we focus on basic needs.. we can become a fluid eudaimoniative surplus


the more we know about how culture works, the more we as individuals can see how cultural factors shape us..

i think this is backwards.. i think we have to trust 7 bn individuals everyday.. to be themselves.. follow their whimsy/curiosity/alive-ness.. and trust that/whatever emergence – otherwise.. i don’t think we’ll ever be in sync enough to dance

an ostrom approach would seek a *common language where possible, and seek to aggregate form the diverse schools of thought that investigate culture..t

let’s try *idio-jargon as common language .. and aggregate ourselves (every single thumbprint) via our daily convo/curiosities..from 7 bn

as it could be


commons are essential and liberating in so many ways. however, an ostrom approach warns us not to see them as a utopia. power relations exist w/in a situation of collective ownership too and commons are not a perfect solution promising universal human liberation. a sharing econ, based on free, touches more and more of our lives.. 20 yrs ago who would have thought that much of our access to culture like music, film or knowledge would be free..

i would define commons sans any ownership..  and i’d say nothing is free until we play it sans money.. and.. none of this will work till all have access

ie: uber.. has made travel far cheaper and easier

not for those driving.. no?


ostrom shows that commons are possible but there is a danger that her careful analysis is ignored and her reputation is used to license an uncritical joy and acceptance of any commons..


what she (elinor) gives radicals is an emphasis on pragmatism.. it might be suggested that the more radical one’s aims are, the more practical must be the means..

in the city.. as the day




tragedy of commons

tragedy of the non common

common\ing et al

a nother way

1 yr to try commons et al



short findings restate