Reflections on Vincent Ostrom, Public Administration, and Polycentricity

Authors

  • Michael D. McGinnis,

    Corresponding author
    1. Indiana University
    • Michael D. McGinnis is director of the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis, professor of political science, and adjunct professor in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University Bloomington. His research interests include institutional analysis, health policy, faith-based organizations, and global governance. He is coauthor or editor of four books and has published articles in the American Political Science Review, Policy Studies Journal, Journal of Conflict Resolution, and elsewhere.
      E-mail:mcginnis@indiana.edu

      Elinor Ostrom is the Arthur F. Bentley Professor of Political Science and senior research director of the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis at Indiana University, as well as founding director of the Center for the Study of Institutional Diversity at Arizona State University. She was the co-recipient of the 2009 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences, and she has authored several books, including Governing the Commons, Understanding Institutional Diversity, and Working Together (with Amy Poteete and Marco Janssen).
      E-mail:ostrom@indiana.edu

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  • Elinor Ostrom

    Corresponding author
    1. Indiana University
    • Michael D. McGinnis is director of the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis, professor of political science, and adjunct professor in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University Bloomington. His research interests include institutional analysis, health policy, faith-based organizations, and global governance. He is coauthor or editor of four books and has published articles in the American Political Science Review, Policy Studies Journal, Journal of Conflict Resolution, and elsewhere.
      E-mail:mcginnis@indiana.edu

      Elinor Ostrom is the Arthur F. Bentley Professor of Political Science and senior research director of the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis at Indiana University, as well as founding director of the Center for the Study of Institutional Diversity at Arizona State University. She was the co-recipient of the 2009 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences, and she has authored several books, including Governing the Commons, Understanding Institutional Diversity, and Working Together (with Amy Poteete and Marco Janssen).
      E-mail:ostrom@indiana.edu

    Search for more papers by this author

Abstract

Among Vincent Ostrom's many contributions to the study of public administration, policy, and political science, the concept of polycentricity remains his single most important legacy. This essay locates the origins of this concept in Ostrom's early research on resource management in the Western United States and demonstrates its continuing influence throughout The Intellectual Crisis in Public Administration, The Political Theory of a Compound Republic, and his other major publications. Although typically pigeonholed within the confines of the public choice tradition, Ostrom's body of work should be widely appreciated as an early statement of the critical importance of network forms of governance in democratic societies.

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