Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Understanding Institutional Diversity

Understanding Institutional Diversity

Elinor Ostrom
Copyright Date: 2005
Edition: STU - Student edition
Pages: 376
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Understanding Institutional Diversity
    Book Description:

    The analysis of how institutions are formed, how they operate and change, and how they influence behavior in society has become a major subject of inquiry in politics, sociology, and economics. A leader in applying game theory to the understanding of institutional analysis, Elinor Ostrom provides in this book a coherent method for undertaking the analysis of diverse economic, political, and social institutions.

    Understanding Institutional Diversityexplains the Institutional Analysis and Development (IAD) framework, which enables a scholar to choose the most relevant level of interaction for a particular question. This framework examines the arena within which interactions occur, the rules employed by participants to order relationships, the attributes of a biophysical world that structures and is structured by interactions, and the attributes of a community in which a particular arena is placed.

    The book explains and illustrates how to use the IAD in the context of both field and experimental studies. Concentrating primarily on the rules aspect of the IAD framework, it provides empirical evidence about the diversity of rules, the calculation process used by participants in changing rules, and the design principles that characterize robust, self-organized resource governance institutions.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-3173-9
    Subjects: Political Science, Sociology, Management & Organizational Behavior

Table of Contents


    • One Understanding the Diversity of Structured Human Interactions
      (pp. 3-31)

      To understand institutions one needs to know what they are, how and why they are crafted and sustained, and what consequences they generate in diverse settings. Understanding anything is a process of learning what it does, how and why it works, how to create or modify it, and eventually how to convey that knowledge to others. Broadly defined, institutions are the prescriptions that humans use to organize all forms of repetitive and structured interactions including those within families, neighborhoods, markets, firms, sports leagues, churches, private associations, and governments at all scales. Individuals interacting within rule-structured situations face choices regarding the...

    • Two Zooming In and Linking Action Situations
      (pp. 32-68)

      Whenever two or more individuals are faced with a set of potential actions that jointly produce outcomes, these individuals can be said to be “in” an action situation. Typical action situations include:

      buyers and sellers exchanging goods in a market;

      legislators making legislative decisions about future laws;

      powerful politicians bargaining over the allocation of public support;

      users of a common-pool resource withdrawing resource units (such as fish, water, or timber);

      heads of state negotiating an international treaty.

      The structure of all of these situations—and many more—can be described and analyzed by using a common set of variables. These...

    • Three Studying Action Situations in the Lab
      (pp. 69-98)

      Readers of past descriptions of the working components of the Institutional Analysis and Development (IAD) framework have frequently urged me to provide some examples of an action situation to help them make this abstract concept more meaningful. Studying action situations in an experimental laboratory turns out to be an excellent way to understand how the components of an action situation and changes in these components, even small changes, can make a difference in behavior and outcomes. Experiments provide very good examples of how action situations work. In the laboratory, the researcher carefully establishes the specific components of an action situation...

    • Four Animating Institutional Analysis
      (pp. 99-134)

      In the first three chapters of this book, I focused on the exogenous variables that underpin all action situations and the components of action situations at operational, collective-choice, or constitutional-choice levels of analysis. So far, I have provided only a minimal sketch (in chapter 3) of the contemporary theory used to explain and predict how participants in action situations are expected to choose among actions. It is this theory (and models of this theory) that analysts use to predict likely actions of diverse participants and their cumulative outcomes. Participants are the second holon of an action arena and the animators...


    • Five A Grammar of Institutions, SUE CRAWFORD AND ELINOR OSTROM
      (pp. 137-174)

      Chapter 4 focuses on the challenge that social scientists face in animating analyses of social situations so as to generate understandings and predictions that are then tested.¹ The need to study holons within holons makes this a difficult process. Until recently, political economists had at least one unchanging constant in their analyses—the model of the individual used. One paid primary attention to the focal action situation and then asked what participants modeled as rational egoists would do in this situation. The general strategy recommended in this book is similar but more difficult. First, one needs to examine the structure...

    • Six Why Classify Generic Rules?
      (pp. 175-185)

      In chapter 5, Sue Crawford and I use the ADICO grammar to distinguish among three essential components of all institutional analyses: strategies, norms, and rules. Hopefully, the reader has grasped the importance of understanding how individuals adopt strategies in light of the norms they hold and within the rules of the situation within which they are interacting. In chapter 7, we will move forward to discussing a way of consistently grouping rules so that the analysis of rule systems can be made much more cumulative. This chapter is a prologue to chapter 7 in that it addresses why we would...

    • Seven Classifying Rules, ELINOR OSTROM AND SUE CRAWFORD
      (pp. 186-216)

      The purpose of this chapter is to develop a useful system for classifying or naming rules. In our effort to group rules into useful classifications, we recognize that no single classification can ever be useful for all purposes. One strategy that is commonly used is to order rules according to the jurisdiction that created them. All national rules are classified together, state or provincial rules are a second group, and local rules are a third group. This is a useful first cut when one is studying the similarities or differences among multiple domains of a legal system, but does not...


    • Eight Using Rules as Tools to Cope with the Commons
      (pp. 219-254)

      In chapter 7, we described the seven generic rules that individuals use when establishing or changing action situations they confront in everyday life. Chapter 7, hopefully, provided the reader with a useful overview of the tools that individuals use in creating structure in the multiple action situations they face in life. Chapters 8 and 9 will apply these tools, and the framework developed in the earlier chapters of this book, to a focused study of common-pool resource problems.

      Common-pool resource problems are among the core social dilemmas facing all peoples (see discussion in chapters 1 and 3). Collective action is...

    • Nine Robust Resource Governance in Polycentric Institutions
      (pp. 255-288)

      The study of the rules actually used in many field settings across the world to regulate the use of common-pool resources leads to an unsettling conclusion. We must conclude that those making rules in efforts to improve outcomes in this policy domain can undertake only partial analyses of a limited set of potential rules and their impact on actions and outcomes in specific environments. No one can undertake acompleteanalysis of all of the potential rules that they might use and analytically determine which set of rules will be optimal for the outcomes they value in a particular ecological,...