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Dr. Derek Wall of Goldsmith’s, University of London, discusses the pragmatic dimension of Elinor Ostrom’s Nobel Prize winning work on governance, outlining its importance for radical democracy and green politics.

About the Speaker

Dr Derek Wall is an associate lecturer in Political Economy at Goldsmiths College.  His books include The Sustainable Economics of Elinor Ostrom (2014) and Elinor Ostrom’s Rules for Radicals (2017).  He is a former International Coordinator of the Green Party of England and Wales and contested the Maidenhead constituency in the 2017  General Election.  He is currently writing a political biography of Hugo Blanco.  He is a patron of Peace in Kurdistan.

Read an Excerpt

A chapter from Elinor Ostrom’s Rules for Radicals is available here.

About the Talk

‘He was, indeed, in the habit of always comparing what he heard or read with an already familiar canon, and felt his admiration quicken if he could detect no difference.  This state of mind is by no means to be ignored, for applied, to political conversations, to the reading of newspapers, it forms public opinion and thereby makes possible the greatest events in history.’  (Proust 2000: 469)

Proust, M. (2000) In Search of Lost Time: III The Guermantes Way. Vintage Books, London.

Elinor Ostrom’s work, which of course cannot be separated artificially from that of Vincent Ostrom, or indeed their wider network, can be difficult to situate.  Building on the insight of Paul Dragos Aligica (2014) that her work displays an affinity with that of the philosopher John Dewey, this paper argues that her work has a pragmatic dimension.  In the most obvious sense she started not with a set of normative assumptions or theoretical concepts but with an emphasis on an open problem solving approach.  While her work has a normative dimension, she focused on applying a battery of diverse techniques to particular problems or puzzles.  Her initial encounter with Garrett Hardin, when he lectured on ‘the Tragedy of the Commons’, illustrates the pragmatic nature of her work with particular clarity.