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
The Good Society – Penn State University Press
Published: Sep 28, 2011
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