Beyond Markets and States: Polycentric Governance of Complex Economic Systems

Prize lecture given by Elinor Ostrom  December 8 , 2009 at the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47408, and Center for the Study of Institutional Diversity, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, U.S.A.

Contemporary research on the outcomes of diverse institutional arrangements for governing common-pool resources (CPRs) and public goods at multiple scales builds on classical economic theory while developing new theory to explain phenomena that do not fit in a dichotomous world of “the market” and “the state.” Scholars are slowly shifting from positing simple systems to using more complex frameworks, theories, and models to understand the diversity of puzzles and problems facing humans interacting in contemporary societies. The humans we study have complex motivational structures and establish diverse private-for-profit, governmental, and community institutional arrangements that operate at multiple scales to generate productive and innovative as well as destructive and perverse outcomes (North 1990, 2005).

Elinor Ostrom
Published in: American Economic Review
2010 100 Pages 641-672