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Posc 211 Environment & the Evolution of Rules: Designing Institutions to Solve Political Problems

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POSC 211 Environment & the Evolution of Rules: Designing Institutions

to Solve Political Problems

Fall 2007

Barbara Allen, ext. 4084

Tu/Thu 10:10–11:55

Office hours by appt: Mon–Thu

CMC 210

Sign–up Willis 408

The Course

How can we design democratic institutions to deal with environmental and social problems? Are there universal approaches to solving political problems in physically and socially diverse communities? Do people come up with different institutional ways to address shared problems because of environmental or cultural differences? By examining basic principles of institutional design you will learn how to analyze constitutions, public policies, international treaties, and other "rule ordered relationships" that different people have created to deal with environmental concerns and, generally, the health and welfare of their communities.

Our readings and discussions in this introduction to institutional analysis and development will draw from a number of disciplines including anthropology, economics, law, political science, public administration, political philosophy, and sociology. We start from the assumption that there are several core problems of organization that face all societies and cultures. Although the dilemmas that a particular group, association, or society may face can manifest as different “issues” according to different cultural understandings, periods of institutional development, and so forth, we can step back from the specifics to think about general problems of, for example, coordinating our individual activities in ways that produce some mutually beneficial results. Thus, people in any association or society have a stake in how the relationships of the group are constituted and, if there are some general principles about constituting relationships that can be known, we all have an interest in thinking about what those principles might be.
As you can see, another premise of the course is that people do constitute their relationships; we have choices — the rules and so forth are not simply given — and it is important to develop our understanding of individual and collective choices, rules, and the constitution of relationships. There are a variety of institutional designs available for dealing with various categories of problems; how do we begin to think about why we might take one approach over another?
Rules establish parameters of choice. At one of the most basic levels of choice, of constitutional choice, rules structure the basic conversations about “what to do when.” Even more basic are “epistemic choices,” or strategies that we adopt to make sense of existence and deal with questions of existence about which humans can never have certain knowledge (e.g. Why do I exist?) The rules of language shape our foundation–making choices, that is, our epistemic and constitutional choices To think about how various types of rules structure choice, we must make some assumptions about human beings. For example, many institutional analysts picture a rational actor responding to the various incentives established by rule–ordered relationships. This is a description of individual people that deserves a great deal of attention, so we will spend several sessions thinking about the various things people mean when they talk about making rational choices.
As we move on from thinking about why we might expect or predict a certain behavior or choice in a given situation, we will enter the complex world of “given situations” or institutional structure. We will examine some of the basic choice situations that seem to come up again and again, the various collective approaches that organized groups seem to take, and compare different organizational structures, given the different conditions that may face a group. All of these interactions become even more complex as associations and individual interact in a matrix of relationships.

The readings for the course have been drawn from a number of books and journal articles available on reserve at the library. You may make copies for your personal use. We make extensive use of: Elinor Ostrom. 2005. Understanding Institutional Diversity. Princeton: Princeton University Press. 0–691–12238–5. Ostrom’s book is available at the bookstore.


In addition to coming to class prepared to discuss the readings and topics listed for each meeting below, you will write two essays discussing a particular issue raised by each main sections of our readings. The first essay will cover topics from the first two parts of the course — the construction of the “rational actor” and various ways of understanding the problems resulting from individual “rational” actions, which produce unintended, undesirable aggregate results. The second essay will cover the third and fourth parts to the course. In part three we see that dealing with “the individual” is just the beginning — we also have to deal with the various “authorities” or rule enforcers whom we have constituted to address the problems examined in parts one and two. Institutional analysis offers an approach to constitutional design that will highlight the strengths and weakness of four major categories of rule ordered relations: markets, centralized authority (hierarchies), decentralized authority (including center–periphery designs), and polycentric designs (including federalism). For four of our sessions, I offer you the choice of reading in greater depth about a specific institutional form (centralization, decentralization, and polycentricity). We will consider the moral implications of institutional development, as well as other measures of institutional performance such as efficiency, effectiveness, and sustainability. Each of you will do the depth reading for one of these design options (we’ll make assignments according to your interests in class). One of the choices for your final essay will be to tackle the “depth” reading assignments for additional topics, so that you can write a comparative essay about institutional designs or evaluate one of our case studies (part four) from some angle that examines (critiques, augments, whatever) the analysis given by our authors.

Recommended Reading

Under some topic headings you’ll see that I’ve offered “recommended readings.” These readings are optional; you may wish to use them if you decide to focus an essay on the topic to which they refer.

Grades will be computed as follows:

Essay 1 40

Essay 2 50

Participation 10

Total 100%

Part 1: Cause, Order, and Pattern: Ideas about Nature and Culture and the Implications of Ideas for Institutional Design and Development
Tues Sept 11 Studying Institutions as Human Artifacts—An Overview

Read: From E. Ostrom. 2005. Understanding Institutional Diversity Ch. 1 “Understanding the Diversity of Structured Human Interactions” 1–6.

John Searle, ed. 1969. “The Distinction Between Brute Facts and Institutional Facts.” In Speech Acts: An Essay on the Philosophy of Language. New York: Cambridge University Press. 50–53.

Thomas Hobbes. 1994 [1651]. Leviathan. Edwin Curley, ed. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing. “Author’s Introduction” 3–5.

Thurs Sept 13 Common Sense as Ordering Principle

Read: Clifford Geertz. 1983. “Common Sense as a Cultural System,” in Local Knowledge. New York: Basic Books. 73–93.

Tues Sept 18 Moral Understandings and Rule Order

**********Screening of Film Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room***********

Read for discussion, 20 Sept: Philip Selznick. 1992. The Moral Commonwealth. Berkeley: University of California Press. Part 3, “Moral Institution,” Ch 9, “Theory of Institutions,” 231–264,

Thurs Sept 20 Epistemic Choice and Constitutional Choice

Read: V. Ostrom “The Ontological Foundations of Human

Understanding” and “Artisanship-Artifact Relationships”

in The Meaning of Democracy, 175–226.

Philip Selznick. 1992. The Moral Commonwealth. Berkeley: University of California Press. Ch. 16, “Covenant & Commonwealth” (477–538)

Part 2: The Idea of “Rationality” and Reasonable Expectations of Rational Actors, Collective Action, and Assurance Problems
Tues Sept 25 Rational Choices, Non–exclusion, and the “free rider,”

Read: Garrett Hardin. 1968. “The Tragedy of the Commons,” Science 162 (December 13). 1243–1248.

Mancur Olson. 1971. “Introduction,” “A Theory of Groups and Organizations,” and “Group Size and Group Behavior,” from The Logic of Collective Action. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. 1–66.

E. Ostrom. 2005. Understanding Institutional Diversity Ch. 1 “Understanding the Diversity of Structured Human Interactions” 1–31.

Tues Sept 27 A Closer Look at Uncertainties and Asymmetries of Information and other Resources: Framing, Imperfect Information, and “Bounded Rationality”

Read: Amos Tversky and Daniel Kuhneman. 1986. “Rational Choice and the Framing of Decisions,” Journal of Business 59: 4 pt 2. S251–S278.

Herbert Simon. 1986. “Rationality in Psychology and Economics,” Journal of Business. 59:4 pt. 2 S209–S224.

Amartya Sen. 1977. “Rational Fools: A Critique of the Behavioral Foundations of Economic Theory,” Philosophy and Public Affairs. 6: 4 (summer) 317–344.

Recommended Reading: C. Ford Runge. 1984. “Institutions and the Free Rider: The Assurance Problem in Collective Action,” Journal of Politics. 46, 155–181.

Herbert Simon. 1947. Administrative Behavior. Chapters 4 & 5. New York: Macmillan.

Herbert Simon. “From Substantive to Procedural Rationality” in Models of Bounded Rationality. 424–443.

Karl Popper. 1985. “The Rationality Principle (1967),” in Popper Selections, ed. David Miller. Princeton: Princeton University Press. 357–365.

Thurs Sept 27 Theory and Empirical Study of Rationality, Social Choice, and the Commons

Read: Kenneth Arrow. 1974. “Rationality: Individual and Social” and “Organization and Information” in The Limits of Organization. New York: WW Norton. 15–43.

Arun Agrawal. 2002. “Common Resources and Institutional Sustainability,” in E. Ostrom, et al. eds. The Drama of the Commons. Washington: National Academy Press. 41–86.

Recommended Reading: Margaret Archer. 1995. “The Vexatious fact of Society,” from Realist Social Theory: The Morphogenic Approach. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1-30.

Kenneth Boulding. 1963. “Towards a Pure Theory of Threat Systems,” American Economic Review (May) 424–534.

Tues Oct 2 Dynamic Models of Reciprocity, Feedback, and Exchange

Read: Mary Parker Follett. 1940. “Constructive Conflict,” in H.C. Metcalf and L. Urwick, eds. Dynamic Administration. New York: Harper & Row 30–49.

View Film: Amartya Sen: A Life Reexamined

Douglass North. 1990. “A Transaction Cost Theory of Politics,” Journal of Theoretical Politics. 2(4): 355–367.

Recommended Reading: Thomas Schelling. 1978. “Thermostats, Lemons, and Other Families of Models” Micro Motives and Macro Behavior. New York: WW Norton. 83–133.

**********************Topics for Essay 1 Discussed***********************

Thurs Oct 4 Rationality, Commons Governance, and Sustainable Institutions

Read: Elinor Ostrom. 1990. Governing the Commons. London: Cambridge University Press. Ch 1. “Reflections on the Commons,” London: Cambridge University Press. 1–28.

E. Ostrom. 2005. Understanding Institutional Diversity Ch. 2. “Zooming In and Linking Action Situations,” 32–68.

Recommended Reading: Jonathan Bendor and Dilip Mookherjee. 1987. “Institutional Structure and the Logic of Ongoing Collective Action,” American Political Science Review. 81: 1 (March) 129–151.
Part 3: The Institutional Basis for Constructive Conflict and Cooperation
Tues Oct 9 The Problems of Scale and Scope in Institutional Design

Read: Oran Young. 1995. “The Problem of Scale in Human/Environment Relationships,” in Local Commons and Global Interdependence. Robert Keohane and Elinor Ostrom, eds. London: Sage. 27–45.

Duncan Snidal. 1995. “The Politics of Scope: Endogenous Actors, Heterogeneity and Institutions,” in Local Commons and Global Interdependence. 47–70.

***************************Essay 1 Due in Class**************************

Thurs Oct 11 A Framework for Institutional Analysis

Read: E. Ostrom. 2005. Understanding Institutional Diversity. Ch. 4, “Animating Institutional Analysis,” 99–133.

E. Ostrom. 1990. Governing the Commons Chapter 2, “An Institutional Approach to the Study of Self–Organization and Self–Governance in CPR Situations.” 29–57.

Recommended Reading: E. Ostrom. 2005. Understanding Institutional Diversity. Ch 3, “Studying Action Situations in the Lab,” 69–98.

Tues Oct 16 Classifying Rules as a Basis for Institutional Analysis

Read: E. Ostrom. 2005. Understanding Institutional Diversity. Ch. 6, “Why Classify Generic Rules? And Ch. 7, “Classifying Rules,” 175–215.

Thurs Oct 18 Criteria for Evaluating Institutional Performance

Read: E. Ostrom et al. Institutional Incentives and Sustainable Development. Ch 5, “Evaluating Institutional Performance” and Ch 6, “Analyzing Institutional Arrangements” 111–140.

V. Ostrom. 1995. “A Forgotten Tradition: The Constitutional Level of Analysis” in Polycentric Governance and Development. 151–165.

********Assignment of Depth Reading and Discussion of Topics for Second Essay ******

Tues Oct 23 Analyzing Centralized Institutional Arrangements

Read: E. Ostrom et al, Institutional Incentives. Ch. 7, “Centralized Institutional Arrangement, 141–162.

Vincent Ostrom. 1999. “ Water and Politics California Style,” and “Cryptoimperialism, Predatory States, and Self–Governance,” in Michael McGinnis, ed. Polycentric Governance and Development. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 31–41 and 166–185.
Thurs Oct 25 Historical Perspectives on Centralization and Corporate Bodies

Everyone Reads: Philip Selznick. 1992. The Moral Commonwealth. Berkeley: University of California Press. Part 3, “Moral Institution,” Ch 10 “Authority and Bureaucracy” 265–88

Max Weber. 2007 [1919]. “The President of the Reich,” in Peter Lassman and Ronald Speirs, eds. Weber: Political Writings. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 304–308.
Depth Reading: Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison,

The Federalist nos. 1, 15, and 16. These readings can be found at: The Avalon Project of the Yale Law School, The Federalist Papers

Hobbes Leviathan. Ch 13–16; 17–19

Max Weber. 1977 [1914] Economy and Society. Guenther Roth and Claus Wittich eds. Berkeley: University of California Press, “Bureaucracy” V2 Ch 11, 956–1005.
Tues Oct 30 Analyzing Decentralized Institutional Arrangements

Read: E. Ostrom et al. Institutional Incentives. Ch. 8, “Decentralized Institutional Arrangements, 163–176.

Max Weber. 2007 [1919]. “The Profession and Vocation of Politics,” in Peter Lassman and Ronald Speirs, eds. Weber: Political Writings. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 309–369.

Depth reading on Decentralization

Read: Robert Michels. 1959. Political Parties. New York:

Dover Publications, Part Six “Synthesis: the Oligarchic

Tendencies of Organizations” 365–408.

Alexis de Tocqueville. 2000 [1835–41]. Democracy in

America. Harvey Mansfield and Delba Winthrop trans.

V. 1 pt. 1 Ch 2–5; pt. 2 Ch. 1, 5–9.

Thurs Nov 1 Analyzing Polycentric Institutional Arrangements

Read: E. Ostrom et al. Institutional Incentives Ch 9, “Polycentric Institutional Arrangements

Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, James Madison

Federalist New York: Modern Library. Numbers 10,

37, 38, 46–48, 51, 53, 78, 81

These readings can be found at: The Avalon Project of the Yale Law School, The Federalist Papers
Depth Reading: Philip Selznick. 1992. The Moral

Commonwealth. Berkeley: University of California Press. Part 3, “Moral Institution,” Ch. 11 “Management and Governance,” 289–318.

Edella Schlager “Common-Pool Resource Theory” in Environmental Governance Reconsidered Robert T. Durant et al. eds. Cambridge MIT Press, 2004, 145–173.

Tues Nov 6 Case Illustrations of Polycentric Governance

Everyone Reads: E. Ostrom. 2005. Understanding Institutional Diversity. Ch. 8, “Using Rules as Tools to Cope with the Commons,” 219–254.

Vincent Ostrom. 1999. “Legal and Political Conditions of Water Resource Development” in McGinnis, Polycentric Governance and Development. 42–59

Elinor Ostrom. 1999. “Design Principles in Long–Enduring Irrigation Institutions.” in McGinnis, Polycentric Governance and Development. 74–86.

Depth Reading:

Daniel A. Mazmanian, “Los Angeles’ Transition from Command-and-Control to Market-Based Air Policy Strategies and Implementation,” in Toward Sustainable Communities, Daniel A. Mazmanian and Michael E. Kraft eds. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2001, 77–112.

Edella Schlager, William Blomquist, and Shui-Yan Tang, “Mobile Flows, Storage, and Self-Organized Institutions for Governing Common-Pool Resources,” in McGinnis, Polycentric Governance and Development. 114–147.

Daniel Elazar. 1974. “First Principles,” in The Federal Polity, Daniel Elazar, ed. New Brunswick: Transaction Books. 1–10.

Barry Weingast. 1995. “The Economic Role of Political Institutions: Market Preserving Federalism and Economic Development,” Journal of Law, Economics and Organizations 11: (April) 1–31.
Part 4: Conclusions: Rules and Normative Considerations in Institutional Analysis and Development

Thurs Nov 8 Reprise: The Ethical and Moral Foundations of Institutions

Read: Philip Selznick. 1992. The Moral Commonwealth. Berkeley: University of California Press. Part 3, “Moral Institutions,” Ch. 12 “Integrity and Responsibility,” 319–354.

E. Ostrom. 2005. Understanding Institutional Diversity. Ch. 9, “Robust Resource Governance,” 255–288.

View Film: God Sleeps in Rwanda

Tues Nov 13 The Uses of Institutional Analysis— Our Summation

View Film: The Corporation on reserve at library

*******************Essay Two Due in Class*******************

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