Development and Underdevelopment in the History of Economic Thought

Elinor Ostrom and the Design Principles as an epistemological disruption in ecological and development economy

MAIRE Thierry, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales/Escuela Superior de Economia y Negocios
Rouillard Lucas, University Paris 1 Sorbonne

One of Elinor Ostrom's central element in her reframing of Commons management lies within the use of 8 Design Principles (DP)(Ostrom 1990; Araral, 2014; Baggio, 2016). Although she underlined more than once that said DP were not a prescriptive set of tools but rather guidelines to be adapted, many international programs regarding development issues as well as ecological ones have integrated these principles, one way or the other (Cox, 2010 ; World Bank 2010 ; Robele and alii, 2017). The further extension of Commons logic to new areas, such as knowledge, health or culture, shows the fundamental shift Ostrom's analysis provided us with, leading to new ways of thinking in terms of contribution to economic development in a sustainable perspective (Hess and Ostrom ; 2007, Hess, 2012). By studying the diffusion of Ostrom's Design Principles in some international institutions' programs, both public and NGOs, such as the FAO, the IUCN, the Convention for Biological Diversity, the WWF, and at the French level, France Nature Environnement, the State secretary to Biodiversity, or Reserves Naturelles de France, to name a few, we would like to show the scope and degree to which Ostrom's DP have changed not only the content but the framing of development and ecological programs. Ostrom's DP prove to constitute an epistemological disruption as to how such programs have been conceived and represents a move from some core concepts regarding property rights, governance and the way to implement efficient common pool resources management actions that contribute to economic development as it was conceived under market-based or mainstream economy approaches such as the DICE Model (Nordhaus, 1979, 1992)or others analysis (Helm and Hepburn, 2012 ; Markandya, 2016). This disruption opened a new paradigm and a research program (Lakatos, 1994, and led to a new community of researchers (Kuhn, 1962): hence a new chapter in the History of Economic Thought(Spash and Ryan, 2012)


Keywords: Ostrom, Design principles, ecological economy, development economy, governance, property rights, biodiversity