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SELF-ORGANIZATION IN COLLECTIVE ACTION: ELINOR OSTROM’S CONTRIBUTIONS AND COMPLEXITY THEORY Göktuğ Morçöl Presentation at the the Challenges of Making.

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Presentation on theme: "SELF-ORGANIZATION IN COLLECTIVE ACTION: ELINOR OSTROM’S CONTRIBUTIONS AND COMPLEXITY THEORY Göktuğ Morçöl Presentation at the the Challenges of Making."— Presentation transcript:

1 SELF-ORGANIZATION IN COLLECTIVE ACTION: ELINOR OSTROM’S CONTRIBUTIONS AND COMPLEXITY THEORY Göktuğ Morçöl Presentation at the the Challenges of Making Public Administration and Complexity Theory Work Conference (COMPACT Work II), Los Angeles, CA, June 2013

2 Why this paper? To recognize Ostrom’s contributions to our understanding of self-organization. To highlight the contributions by complexity theorists. More important: To define complexity theory itself – Is complexity theory a distinct theory? – Does it matter?

3 Elinor Ostrom (1933 –2012) Was Professor of Political Economy at Indiana and Arizona State Universities Awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2009 for her analysis of “economic governance, especially the commons" Self-organization (self-governance): a key concept in her works Inspired by studies on complex systems ( Her Nobel Prize lecture : ttp://www.nobelprize.org/mediaplayer/index.php?id=1223)ttp://www.nobelprize.org/mediaplayer/index.php?id=1223

4 Ostrom versus Complexity Theory OSTROM Self-organization happens in structured environments. Methodological individualism Static conceptualization COMPLEXITY THEORY Self-organizational ability depends on external boundary conditions Methodological holism Recognition of system dynamics

5 Self-Organization: A Big & Old Idea The Idea: – Events do not require external drivers, or hierarchically superior forces, to happen. – They can happen for internal reasons, driven by the internal dynamics of systems. – Self-causation, as opposed to external causation History: Aristotelian teleology: “purposive finality” Immanuel Kant: “inner teleology” of organisms General systems theory, cybernetics

6 Self-Organization: Complexity Theory Contributions Self-organization is the norm, not exception, in nature. It is closely related to the perpetual dynamism in nature. Identified some of the mechanisms of self-organization in nature: Autocatalysis (Prigogine, Kauffman) Mutual cuing (Strogatz) Tagging (Holland) Mechanisms of the aggregation of political actors (Axelrod)

7 Ostrom’s IAD Framework: Theoretical Bases Two bases: Rational choice theory Polycentricism Rational choice: – Brings down the conceptual barrier between public and private interests/choices and – Opens up a conceptual space to understand self- organization in collective action processes.

8 Ostrom’s IAD Framework: Theoretical Bases Liberal-democratic theory of government: – Separates public an private realms, interests, and choices Public officials implement public policies to promote public interest. Private individuals pursue their own interests. Public choice: Public officials pursue their self-interests too.

9 Ostrom’s IAD Framework: Theoretical Bases An alternative conceptualization of “public interest”: The “aggregation problem” (micro-macro problem) How do individual actions turn into collective actions? (Simon & associates, 1992) Rational choice’s answer to the aggregation problem: An idealized system of markets. Actors with fixed interests and preferences An additive view: Public interest as entirety of individual preferences (Cochran & Malone, 1995)

10 Ostrom’s IAD Framework: Theoretical Bases Rational choice: Methodological individualism 1.The individual is only legitimate unit of analysis. 2.Individual characteristics are fixed. Ostrom: Not completely comfortable with methodological individualism – She recognizes the contexts of individual behaviors. But keeps it in her conceptualizations and analyses. – Context is separate in her conceptualizations.

11 Ostrom’s IAD Framework: Theoretical Bases Ostrom’s view of context: The attributes of a community (culture) and institutional structures provide the preconditions of self-organization by individual actors. These institutions are external to individual decision makers. They function as external inducements for action. They do not shape individual preferences or values (Ostrom & Parks, 1999).

12 Ostrom’s Conceptualization of Self- Organization Ostrom’s three objections to “contemporary policy recommendations”: 1.It is not a simple analytical task of single central actors to design rules for governing resources. 2.The management of resources does not have to be centralized. 3.People are capable of designing their own rules and governing themselves.

13 Ostrom’s Primary Area of Study: Common-Pool Resources Common-Pool Resources (CPRs): “natural or man-made resource system[s] that [are] sufficiently large as to make costly (but not impossible) to exclude potential beneficiaries from obtaining benefits from [their] use” (Ostrom, 1990, p. 30). Examples of CPRs: Fisheries, groundwater basins, grazing areas, irrigation canals, bridges, parking garages, lakes, and oceans

14 Common-Pool Resources: Self-Organization Two sets of conditions of self-organization in CPR situations: 1.Conditions for initiating self-organizational processes: “Attributes of resources and appropriators conducive to and increased likelihood that self-governing associations will form” (Ostrom, 2005, pp ) 2.Conditions for maintaining self-organizational processes: The “design principles for long-enduring CPR institutions” (Ostrom, 1990, p. 90)

15 Common-Pool Resources: Self-Organization Conditions for initiating self-organizational processes: “Attributes of the resources” “Attributes of the appropriators”

16 Common-Pool Resources: Self-Organization Attributes of the resources: There must be a reasonable chance that it is feasible that the resources available to appropriators can be improved (R1). Reliable and valid indicators of the conditions of resources should be available to appropriators at a relatively low cost (R2). The flow of resources for appropriators’ use should be relatively predictable (R3). The resource system should be sufficiently small, given the capabilities of the transportation and communication system, so that appropriators can develop accurate knowledge of the boundaries of the system (R4).

17 Common-Pool Resources: Self-Organization Attributes of the appropriators: The CPR system should be important (salient) enough for appropriators’ livelihood or their achievement of important social or religious values so that they will be motivated to self-organize (A1). Appropriators should have sufficiently common understanding of the CPR system (as summarized in the items R1-R4 above) and how their actions affect the CPR system (A2). if the rate of diminishment for the benefits an appropriator obtains from participating in a self- governing system is low, then he/she will be more motivated to participate (A3). Appropriators should trust each other for keeping promises and reciprocating their actions (A4). Appropriators should have enough autonomy to carry out their actions; external authorities should not be in a position to “countermand” their actions (A5). Appropriators should also have developed sufficient organizational and leadership skills from their earlier experiences (A6).

18 Common-Pool Resources: Self-Organization Design principles for “long-enduring CPR institutions”: 1.The boundaries of a CPR system should be defined clearly, as stated in rule R4 above. 2.Once a self-governing resources system is established, the compliance for its rules should be enforced and monitored. 3.A government should recognize the rights of the participants in a local self-governing system; local communities should be allowed to craft their own rules.

19 Common-Pool Resources: Self-Organization The rationale for the third design principle: (“A government should recognize the rights of the participants in a local self-governing system; local communities should be allowed to craft their own rules.”) Governments are involved in “multiple layers of nested enterprises” (“polycentric systems”). These nested (polycentric) systems are complex adaptive systems. Complex systems require complex forms of knowledge, which cannot be acquired by central actors. Therefore, local self-governing systems are necessary.

20 A Critique of Ostrom from Complexity Theory Both Ostrom and CT acknowledge that self-organization is natural, normal. (External guidance is not always necessary.) Ostrom identified the conditions of self-organization in CPR systems. – Self-organization is not “either – or.” – Nor is it a panacea. – There are degrees of self-organization. Her conditions are static, because she adopts methodological individualism and separates individuals from institutions. Examples: Individuals use cost-benefit analyses, with discount rates. She defines “trust” in terms of the “expected costs.”

21 A Critique of Ostrom from Complexity Theory CT proposes a dynamic and holistic understanding of self- organization. CT researchers study questions like: Is intelligence a precondition for self-organization (cognitive and reactive agents in agent-based simulations)? How are the boundaries of self-organizing complex systems and the “self” defined (e.g., Rhodes, Murphy, Muir, & Murray, 2011).

22 A Critique of Ostrom from Complexity Theory CT proposes a dynamic and holistic understanding of self- organization. CT researchers observe: Self-organization my create order or disorder (Prigogine). A self-organizing system transforms itself in an interaction with its environment (Cilliers, 1998). In social systems self is defined jointly by their participants and observers, through social construction processes (Gerrits, Marks, & van Buuren, 2009).

23 What Can Complexity Theorist Learn from Ostrom? If we want to develop a complexity theory of governance systems: We can take Ostrom’s IAD framework as an example of: – Meticulous theory building and – Empirical verification. (Watch her story at her Nobel Prize Lecture: The generic CT concepts of self-organization should be refined for specific kinds of systems, like governance systems. Her conditions for self-organization in CPR systems are static descriptions, but they can be starting points when developing a dynamic theory of governance systems.

24 THANK YOU ELINOR OSTROM FOR YOUR LIFE’S WORK!


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