Ostrom, Nobel in Economics and Politics
The Nobel Prize in Economics to Elinor Ostrom may suggest a few things:
- According to my colleague economists, there is not a clear woman candidate in the field of economics, narrowly defined.
- It was a long pending duty to award the Prize to a political scientist. When philosopher Amartya Sen got the economics Nobel in 1998, it was explained that “the Swedish academy, reacting to internal criticism over the quality of past and prospective recipients, essentially broadened the economics prize into a social science prize encompassing contributions to political science, psychology and sociology” (according to Sylvia Nasar, John Nash’s biographer, in The New York Times, 15 Oct. 1998). In 2002, the Nobel in economics was given to Daniel Kahneman and Vernon Smith for their “psychological research”. Now a political scientist finally got it.
- As previously celebrated in this blog, the Johan Skytte award, which was established fifteen years ago at the Swedish University of Uppsala, pretends to be a kind of Nobel prize in political science, although more modest. If the Swedish academy still maintains the intention to make the economics prize a social sciences prize, the Skytte prize could become kind of pre-Nobel, selecting potential candidates for it. Elinor Ostrom was indeed the first woman to obtain the Skytte prize, in 2000.
My summary and discussion of some of Elinor Ostrom’s contributions, as in my forthcoming textbook Science of Politics. An Introduction:
On the problem of providing ‘common’ goods:
"Other solutions, beyond privatization and mere coercion, may also be feasible... Coordinated self-restraint among the people involved can attain success if a number of favorable conditions are fulfilled. These include: the establishment of clearly defined boundaries for the availability of the common good; well-distributed rights to all parts involved in participating in collective regulations; the possibility for the community to control the enforcement of agreements and punish violators, and the availability of low cost settings to resolve disputes. There are many cases of meadows, forests, fisheries, irrigation communities and other common-pool resources where users have been able to build and sustain institutions of self-government ensuring reproduction and preventing extinction. In other conditions, especially for pool resources on large-scales without effective institutions, the provision and maintenance of common goods may fail."
Elinor Ostrom, Governing the Commons. The evolution of institutions for collective action. Cambridge University Press, 1990.
Jack Nagel said...
I just read, and enjoyed, your post on Elinor Ostrom's Nobel. However, she's not the first political scientist to win the Nobel in "Economics". Herbert Simon was trained as a political scientist, and made major contributions to public administration, organization theory, and the analysis of power. His work on power (which greatly influenced my own book on that subject) led him in to econometrics and causal modelling. Of course, he went on to be a universal social scientist, with pioneering contributions to decision theory, artificial intelligence and other areas.
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Peter Kurrild-Klitgaard said...
I agree. However, as for "Now a political scientist finally got it", Herbert Simon actually was a political scientist by education (both undergraduate and graduate), so technically she is not the first--although her contribution (IMO) is markedly more "politological" than Simon's.
Although we may disagree on this, I would also say that when reading the Committee's arguments for giving the Prize to James Buchanan (1986), it bears noting that this refers to work (the political economy of constitutions and majority-decisions) that at least today are fairly mainstream as a field of political science.