Volume 1, Number 1 February 1995
Edited by: Jimmy Walker and Patty Dalecki
Co-Directors: Elinor and Vincent Ostrom
- Elinor Ostrom
At the "Workshop on the Workshop" (WOW) held in June of 1994, the most frequently expressed concern by colleagues who attended was that we at the Workshop should make a more serious effort to communicate with the extended Workshop family more frequently. The idea of a newsletter was mentioned numerous times as a good way of accomplishing this.
This issue of Polycentric Circles is our first effort to start a twice-yearly newsletter in response to this concern. In this newsletter we have included considerable information about the "Workshop on the Workshop" and pictures from it so that those who were not in attendance could share some of the intellectual excitement and fun that we all had during this exciting time.
Our plans are that we will include some regular features in the newsletter that will help keep everyone better informed of what is happening in Bloomington. In the winter issue, we will give you a brief sketch about the visiting scholars who will be spending a semester or year with us. In the summer issue, we will provide a list of the Colloquia held during the past year and whether there is a paper that is available. In every issue we will try to provide notes that summarize some of the activities, papers, and reports that are coming from Workshop activities. We will also bring you up to date on staff's comings and goings.
We also hope that we can make this newsletter a media for exchange of information among the extended Workshop family. To do this, we will need you to send assorted notes to be included describing recent publications, new research projects, changes in location, or anything else that you think would be nice to share with others associated broadly with the Workshop. We are thinking of an early December and early July newsletter, so we will need these items no later than October and May of each year.
Please send us reactions to this first newsletter so that we can develop a style over the first year or so that fits all of our needs to keep better in touch.
Let me also take this opportunity to wish all of our colleagues the very best for the new year. We will be thinking of all of you.
- Vincent Ostrom
Following the "Workshop on the Workshop," Gayle Higgins has scheduled reservations for a block of 60 rooms at the Indiana Memorial Union for June 9-12, 1999. We hope that you put this on your calendar and commit a block of time for the "Workshop on the Workshop II." Some glimmer of what might be on the agenda:
Jim McDavid writes (August 15, 1994): We have come to a place in our culture where we claim to eschew absolutesórelativism based perhaps on the philosophical counterpart to Einstein's work at the turn of this century. Without truths, we make our decisions (and frame our social interactions) on transitory criteria. This, in turn, creates more uncertainty in our social common pools and erodes the fund of trust that must underlay an orderly society.
Antoni Kaminski writes (August 29, 1994): I could possibly write a book on parallel processes of building an internal order, the post-communist transformations, and constructing a new European and transatlantic order.
Amos Sawyer writes (August 11, 1994): Virtually all of my time has been taken up by the task of finding a way to end our nightmare. We have negotiated the formation of a new interim government with larger participation of armed factions only to find new armed factions springing up and demanding new places in the government. Very little progress has been made with respect to disarmament; as a result, hundreds of bands of armed men roam the country raining terror on people.
We are now in the fifth year of this madness of death and destruction, and there is no end in sight. I continue to work with others who belong to no armed faction to find a way.
The tragedy of Liberia is, unfortunately, not the exception but a reflection of a general state of affairs emerging in Africa today. In country after country, the "state" is in crisis. In many cases, the collapse of the state has been accompanied by the most gruesome forms of human sufferings: Rwanda, Liberia, Somalia, and Sierra Leone have joined Angola and Sudan as the most acute manifestations of this sad development. The alienation of the state from society is the order of the day. We are not truly seeing what an artificial contrivance the state in Africa is. And we continue to move from one national conference to another to find solutions.
Malgorzata Korzycka-Iwanow writes (August 5, 1994): Again, I thank you very, very much for the Workshop on the Workshop Conference: first of all for the people, for new knowledge, and also for your wonderful opening to others was really something great.
A comment in a memorandum to Jamal Choudhry: I can begin to understand how "partnership" in diverse peacekeeping efforts might yield a "partnership" in genocide. We need a deeper understanding about how patterns of deception and self-deception would work to yield such results.
Arun Agrawal writes (September 5, 1994): I must admit, in response to another point you make, that much of what I write and think about is motivated by the "marxist bias of being occupied with `poor' and `marginal' peoples." I do hope, however, that while that preoccupation makes me select the themes on which I choose to think, I do not let it overwhelm the manner of my thinking and conclusions. I would be grateful, as always, to be taken to task for such lapses. At the same time I do not see how one can escape the charge of having some similar irrational preoccupation govern the focus of one's research. The distinction between practical and instrumental rationality certainly collapses in the face of the Heideggerian analysis of being-in-the-world. But I still have to find a satisfactory method to express this conviction in my research.
John Williams writes (undated): Vincent, I've been meaning to give you this [Rules of Golf]. The rules are much more interesting than football. Note Part I does not deal with enforceable rules, but rather etiquette! Vincent's response: The rules of propriety in Confucian societies are rules of etiquette. The challenge is in how to make them binding.
Reflections on WOW
- Jimmy Walker and Ghosts
I have been asked to "synthesize" some of the summary comments we at the Workshop have received in regard to WOW. This note could never capture the energy and community we all enjoyed in being part of this very special event. Those of us involved in this first Workshop newsletter, however, hope it will be useful to refocus on some of the key themes discussed during WOW -- as we begin to think about another event five years down the road.
Let me apologize in advance if I fail to capture some of the important arguments each of you may have seen as critical to our discussions or if I dwell a bit too long on my own thoughts. Interestingly, however, the "ghosts" on whom I am relying had a fairly consistent pattern of views.
The discussions during WOW were as diverse as the individuals who belong to the Workshop family. But in this diversity, there is a core of commonly held goals (and dilemmas) about what we are able to do and how we should go about doing it. Keeping this in mind, I have organized what I see as central themes along three questions.
(1) What is the Workshop?
(2) What have we accomplished and are pursuing?
(3) What would we like/need to be doing instead (or in conjunction with)?
What is the Workshop?
There is no debate that Workshop associates pursue research interests related to a great diversity of topics and methodologies. Given this, what are the threads that tie these researchers to a "common pursuit?" I believe the answer is two-fold: (1) although diverse, at the core of each of these pursuits is a fundamental attention to the institutions in which choices are made, and (2) these diverse pursuits and methodologies are complementary in their influence on each other's work and in our attempts to examine broader issues. As Vincent noted in a memo on his thoughts on WOW:
Or, as Mike McGinnis noted in his summary reflections on the panel on Macro-Level Perspectives:
What have we accomplished and are pursuing?
Let me begin with two thoughts on this question -- from two of
Rick Wilson, in jest (I think), proposed a new logo for the Workshop (interestingly not using the term polycentric!). In Rick's view, we should promote ourselves with "Trash, Trout, and Tragedies: We're good at things that smell!" On a somewhat more serious level, Lin sees our pursuits as being categorized along "possibility theorems" and "impossibility theorems." Do these ideas have a common theme? They do. Rick's point is that "the framework and our models have been rather successful at prescribing citizen interaction at local governmental levels and at detailing the interactions between various levels of analysis. What we have not been so good at is suggestions for reform at the macro-level." Lin's notion of possibility theorems deals with "our ability to understand local governance." Her impossibility theorem deals with "the difficulties of treating massive institutional settings."
In summary, as I argued in the concluding panel 9, we can think of the body of Workshop-related enterprises along the following broad areas of inquiry:
1. Understanding the "creation/crafting" process leading to specific
rule configurations (institutions).
2. Coding/Interpreting rule structures.
3. Understanding the relationship between rule structures, behavior, and outcomes -- confounded with other attributes of the action situation -- including, but not limited to, the role of language, norms, nested relationships, opportunity/transaction costs, player positions, etc.
More simply, "Rules `R' Us"
"It's not how you play the game that matters, but at what level!"
What would we like/need to be doing instead (or in conjunction with)?
To me (and consistent with the other comments I received), our
focus in each of the panels often turned to this question. Dominant themes
in this regard included the following (in no particular order):
1. We had several long discussions on the nature of the State. Some colleagues see the State as among the more predatory institutions that have been designed and others see a more facilitative entity. In our work, we need to continue on a path of critical evaluation of the nature and evolution of this institution.
2. Common language, or in Bob Hawkins's terms, "make the language clear." Or, as noted by Mark Sproule-Jones, the problem is one of "translating our own languages to practitioners."
3. Objective diagnoses and appropriateness of our data source, as noted by James McDavid, it is important that we ask whether our data are "tainted by our own beliefs." And, as noted by Susan Wynne,
"I thought that Philip Sabetti's paper made an important point
of special significance for political scientists who do case study work.
Many of these people rely rather heavily on secondary historical works
that were put together by historians operating perhaps unconsciously in
a particular paradigm. Because the paradigm is unlikely to be the one he
or she uses, the work based on it may be misleading for the political scientist."
4. Is institutional design a realistic goal? Are the complexities of nested situations and macro problems just too complicated?
5. How do we rigorously articulate the role of the existence and evolution of norms/cultural attributes/race/gender into institutional analysis?
I will end on my own concluding comments that I hope helps tie
all three of these questions together.
I went into WOW expecting something different than what I found. Being relatively new to the Workshop, my expectations were that I would see research programs more closely tied to a common mode of inquiry -- "the framework." For that reason, I found the diversity in approaches utilized within the papers prepared for WOW initially somewhat disturbing. I began to ask myself just what is meant by the "Workshop Approach" to political theory and policy analysis.
On reflection, the diversity is less disturbing -- but still an important issue that should not be overlooked in the years to come. The family of scholars associated with the Workshop bring together backgrounds that are "specialized" to their own disciplines and cultures. The approach to institutional analysis being developed within the broad Workshop community enables these scholars to share their insights and to more carefully articulate their work using a mode of analysis that sharpens common themes. This is the good news.
Our discussions during WOW, however, suggest that we might take more seriously the development of an approach to institutional analysis and a practice of institutional analysis that relies more completely on a commonly held structure. It seems reasonable that a concerted effort to more carefully articulate the Workshop approach and to conduct our research with that approach as a critical guideline can't help but strengthen our capacity to understand the insights gained from each other's endeavors.
Fall 1994-Spring 1995
Professor of Economics, University of Iceland, Reykjavik
Thrainn's current research projects involve the economics of institutions and economic history. The project, Institutions and Economic Stagnation in History, looks at the economic history of Iceland for lessons on long-term economic decline. Another project, Puzzles and Problems in the Economics of Institutions, is concerned with conceptual puzzles and problems in applied work in the new economics of institutions, with special emphasis on the information problem. Also, along with Lee Alston and Douglass North, Thráinn is editing a book of readings, entitled Empirical Studies in Institutional Change.
CLARK C. GIBSON
Post-doctorate, Department of Political Science, Duke University, Durham, NC
Clark's research comprises two different substantive areas. One part of his research examines the politics of environmental policy in developing countries, focusing extensively on how political institutions shape the content and changes of wildlife policy in Zambia. He has also recently published an article in World Development on the political and economic incentives generated by new "participatory" wildlife management programs in Africa. He plans to extend this work to Zimbabwe and Costa Rica. In addition to environmental politics, Clark's other interest is the politics of democratization. Having witnessed four transitional elections in Africa, and worked extensively with United Nations and non-governmental election monitoring missions, he is currently using this experience to analyze how local domestic political elites strategically manipulate international electoral assistance.
Adjunct Assistant Professor, School of Economics & Finance, Golden Gate University, San Francisco, CA
Having reconstructed the U.S. national debt principal balances from 1790 to 1842, Chuck is preparing to extend his corrections to 1880 and to estimate the unpaid interest. Meanwhile he is examining the behaviors of Treasury bookkeeping officials during this period. His long-term interest is how the successful policy of retiring the Federal debt before 1836 was influenced by restrictive moral sentiments and ideology, restricted suffrage, Americanization of English law (esp. of property and contracts, bankruptcy, charity and inheritance) and deflationary expectations.
ALEXANDER V. OBOLONSKY
Doctor of Law & Political Science, Head Research Associate, Institute of State & Law of Russian Academy of Sciences, Russia
Alex's research interests focus on political cultures as component of social orders; public administration, particularly, a place of bureaucracy in different patterns of political order; comparative political history and philosophy; and Russian, Soviet and post-Soviet socio-political dynamics. He is currently preparing the English version of Drama of Russian Political History: System against Personality and considering the problematics of comparative analysis of American and Russian civilizations.
Post-doctorate, Wildlife & Fisheries Sciences, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX
Carrie is a natural resource sociologist whose primary interest is in the possibility of cooperation among common-pool resource (CPR) users to avert conflict and to enable sustained resource use. In 1992-92, she conducted a study of the common-pool fishery of Lake Chapala, Mexico, in which she examined individual behavior and collective outcomes in response to social dilemmas of CPR use. She has focused recently on the topics of social capital, identity, and networks as they relate to cooperation in the commons. Over the past year, she has begun research on the Skagit System Cooperative, an inter-tribal fishery management organization in western Washington. Because of SSC fish stocks' migratory habits and the tribes' sovereignty, the SSC may be viewed as both a local institution and an international regime for CPR management. Pomeroy will explore this connection, as well as the relevance of social ties to the SSC's apparent success.
JAMES M. FERRIS
Professor, Program in Public Policy, School of Public Administration, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Jim's research focuses on the economics of institutional arrangements among the public, nonprofit, and for-profit sectors. He has done extensive work on the political economy of local service delivery, with an emphasis on contracting and the use of volunteers. In addition, he has examined the roles of the public and private (both nonprofit and for-profit) sectors in education and health services, and analyzed options for improving the performance of public sector through competition, decentralization, and privatization. His current research projects include: changing patterns in local service delivery over the 1980s; and the dynamics of ownership structures in the hospital industry. In addition, Jim is also working on a book entitled: The Nonprofit Sector, Political Economy and Public Policy.
Department of Civics & Politics, University of Bombay, India
Pratibha's research interests are quite varied. As a post-doctoral scholar, she conducted research on "African Socialism and Relevance of Julius Nyerere." The last three years she has been working on a comparative theme "Socialism and Democracy" and its relation to development combining politics and economics. Her most current research interest is "Third World--A Process of Democratization: Indian Experiences and the Role of the U.S."
Assistant Professor, Department of Health, Bodoe College, Norway
Bente has a Masters in sociology and is a registered nurse. Her main interest is health care issues; health care politics, the organization of health care, occupational health, elderly care, and hospital organization. Her research is in hospital financing and hospital efficiency.
HANS PETTER SAXI
Associate Professor, Public Politics & Administration, Bodoe College, Norway
Hans Petter's main interests are in reform, organizational development, and cooperation in local government. His ongoing study is an evaluation of cooperation between five organizations from both the private and public sectors.
YU-ZHUANG DENG, Institute of Public Administration, Ministry of Personnel, Hepingli, Beijing, China
KESHAV RAJ ADHIKARI, Institute of Agriculture & Animal Science, Tribhuvan University, Rampur, Chitwan, Nepal
BHARAT MANI SHARMA, Agriculture & Forestry Development Associates (AFORDA), Kathmandu, Nepal
PATRICIA UBERHUAGA, Centro de Estudios de la Realidad Economica y Social (CERES), Cochabama, Bolivia
CRISTIAN VALLEJOS, School of the Environment, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina
We've enjoyed having the photos in this issue. Subject to space constraints, we would love to include photos in future issues. If you have appropriate pictures, please send them. We will do our best to include as many as possible!
Branko Smerdel, Vincent Ostrom, Jimmy Walker, and Elinor Ostrom
Patty Dalecki and Rick Wilson Gordon Whitaker and Timothy Hennessey
Aseem Prakash, Roger Parks, and Dele Olowu Barbara Allen, Robert Bish, and Rick Wilson
WOW Conference, Research Collection, Woodburn Hall
The Next Newsletter
Remember, to make this a newsletter from the broad Workshop family, we need your help. Please send us brief notes regarding recent publications, new research projects, changes in location, or other information you think would be appropriate to be communicated to our colleagues. Depending on the volume of materials we receive, we will include as much of this information as we can.
Submission date: Please send this information to Ray Eliason (our new Editorial Assistant) at the Workshop address by May 15, 1995. Or, if you prefer, email your information to: email@example.com
Our next experiment in institutional design is a Voluntary Contribution Mechanism for provision and distribution of the Newsletter. In this regard, we would appreciate an annual donation of $10.00 from those wishing to contribute to the Newsletter Fund. Your support is deeply appreciated. Checks should be made payable to: Indiana University, designating "Workshop Newsletter Fund."
For all of you Internet users, please send a brief email message to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please include in your note the following: (1) mailing address, (2) phone number, and (3) FAX number. This will help us maintain accurate records.
Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis
513 North Park
Bloomington, IN 47408-3895 USA
Phone: (812) 855-0441
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