Political Economist, Economist (1933-2012)
Elinor Ostrom was an American political economist who won the 2009 Nobel Prize in Economics, alongside Oliver Williamson, for “her analysis of economic governance, especially the commons”.
During her high school years, she was discouraged from studying Trigonometry because girls without top marks in Algebra and Geometry were not permitted to pursue the subject. Subsequently, she was rejected for an economics PhD at UCLA but admitted for political economy. Afterwards, she became associated with the New Institutional Economics and the resurgence of political economy. Her institutional approach to public policy, known as the Institutional Analysis and Development framework, gained enough traction to become a separate school of public choice theory.
Ostrom’s later work researched how humans interact with ecosystems to maintain long-term sustainable resource yields include common poll resources such as forests, fisheries, oil fields, grazing lands and irrigation systems. Her field research centred on the management of pasture by locals in Africa, as well as irrigation systems management in villages of western Nepal. She considered how societies created diverse institutional arrangements for managing natural resources and avoiding ecosystem collapse. She highlighted the multifaceted nature of human–ecosystem interaction and contended that there should not be any singular panacea for individual social-ecological system problems.
“The power of a theory is exactly proportional to the diversity of situations it can explain.”
“As long as a single centre has a monopoly on the use of coercion, one has a state rather than a self-governed society.”
– Elinor Ostrom