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Seeing Like a Citizen: The Contributions of Elinor Ostrom to "Civic Studies"

Seeing Like a Citizen: The Contributions of Elinor Ostrom to "Civic Studies" peter lev i ne When the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced that Elinor Ostrom had won the 2009 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences, one of my colleagues wrote, "The first Nobel for Civic Studies!" Here, I argue for the importance of "Civic Studies" and Ostrom's contributions to it. How we think about politics and society depends on the question that we consider most fundamental. Ideal theorists ask: "What is the best possible society?" Their objective is to point society in the right direction when actual political decisions are made. Among other authors, Stephen Elkin in Reconstructing the Commercial Republic1 and Amartya Sen in The Idea of Justice2 have criticized ideal theory on the ground that the wisest course to steer today may not be straight toward the best possible society. Perhaps we should concentrate on preventing a decline or avoiding a disaster, checking corruption, experimenting with incremental improvements, or maintaining our community's capacity for self-government. These authors imply that strategy as well as normative theory is essential, and the two are inseparable. Non-ideal political theory is addressed to some kind of sovereign: a potential author of laws and policies in the real world, a "decider" (as George http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png The Good Society Penn State University Press

Seeing Like a Citizen: The Contributions of Elinor Ostrom to "Civic Studies"

The Good Society , Volume 20 (1) – Sep 28, 2011

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Penn State University Press
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Copyright © Penn State University Press
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Abstract

peter lev i ne When the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced that Elinor Ostrom had won the 2009 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences, one of my colleagues wrote, "The first Nobel for Civic Studies!" Here, I argue for the importance of "Civic Studies" and Ostrom's contributions to it. How we think about politics and society depends on the question that we consider most fundamental. Ideal theorists ask: "What is the best possible society?" Their objective is to point society in the right direction when actual political decisions are made. Among other authors, Stephen Elkin in Reconstructing the Commercial Republic1 and Amartya Sen in The Idea of Justice2 have criticized ideal theory on the ground that the wisest course to steer today may not be straight toward the best possible society. Perhaps we should concentrate on preventing a decline or avoiding a disaster, checking corruption, experimenting with incremental improvements, or maintaining our community's capacity for self-government. These authors imply that strategy as well as normative theory is essential, and the two are inseparable. Non-ideal political theory is addressed to some kind of sovereign: a potential author of laws and policies in the real world, a "decider" (as George

Journal

The Good SocietyPenn State University Press

Published: Sep 28, 2011

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