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date: 23 July 2017

Abstract and Keywords

Few political theorists have read Elinor Ostrom’s Governing the Commons or incorporated its insights into their work. At first glance, it may seem to be of interest only to social scientists, with little relevance to purely normative political theory. On the contrary, Ostrom’s work in fact shows a kind of presumptuousness in moral theory. It illustrates that theorists tend to assume rather than prove that the central unit of analysis is the modern nation-state. It further shows that theorists may be unable to design solutions to moral problems or problems of justice; they may, at best, only be able to identify such solutions when they appear.

Keywords: liberal theory, polycentric legal order, decentralization, the tragedy of the commons, common pool resources, Elinor Ostrom, political economy

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