How far does evolution take us? Comment on Elinor Ostrom’s: do institutions for collective action evolve?
- 330 Downloads
Elinor Ostrom’s article in this issue suggests that institutions for collective action evolve, highlights parallels between biological and institutional evolution, and describes an hypothetical example of institutional evolution related to an irrigation system. The article is provocative but not definitive in that it does not demonstrate that evolution is more than a metaphor for institutional change and that institutions actually evolve. This commentary unpacks the concept of evolutionary change and evaluates how well various aspects of institutional change fit within this model of change. The analysis supports Ostrom’s contention that evolution is not just a metaphor for institutional change, but also suggests that not all institutional change can be classified as evolutionary. The commentary highlights the need for further conceptual and theoretical development to delineate various forms and processes of institutional change, distinguish between evolutionary and non-evolutionary change, and draw out the consequences of various forms of change.
KeywordsCollective action Evolution Institutions Institutional change Elinor Ostrom
JEL ClassificationsD710 Q200
I gratefully acknowledge the support of Concordia University, Montreal, and the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada.
- Mahoney, J., & Thelen, K. (2010). A theory of gradual institutional change. In J. Mahoney & K. Thelen (Eds.), Explaining institutional change: Ambiguity, agency, and power (pp. 1–37). New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- Migdal, J. S. (1988). Strong societies and weak states: State-society relations and state capabilities in the Third World. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
- Ostrom, E. (2013). Do institutions for collective action evolve? Journal of Bioeconomics. doi: 10.1007/s10818-013-9154-8
- Poteete, A. R. (2012). Levels, scales, linkages, and other ‘multiples’ affecting natural resources. International Journal of the Commons, 6(2 Aug), 134–150. http://www.thecommonsjournal.org/index.php/ijc/article/view/318/269.Google Scholar
- Ribot, J. C., Chhatre, A., & Lankina, T. (2008). Introduction: Institutional choice and recognition in the formation and consolidation of local democracy. Conservation and Society, 6(1), 1–11.Google Scholar
- Streeck, W., & Thelen, K. (2005). Introduction: Institutional change in advanced political economies. In W. Streeck & K. Thelen (Eds.), Beyond continuity: Institutional change in advanced political economies (pp. 1–39). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Thelen, K. (2010). How institutions evolve: Insights from comparative historical analysis. In J. Mahoney & K. Thelen (Eds.), Explaining institutional change: Ambiguity, agency, and power (pp. 208–240). New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar