Elinor Ostrom's Rules for Radicals: Cooperative Alternatives beyond Markets and States

N Neil - @neil@social.coop Public Seen by 369

This thread is for planning and updates on discussion of the first reading group book.


Neil - @neil@social.coop Tue 6 Feb 2018

Hi all
The first book selected for our reading group is "Elinor Ostrom's Rules for Radicals: Cooperative Alternatives beyond Markets and States" by Derek Wall.

You can find the book here: https://www.plutobooks.com/9780745399355/elinor-ostroms-rules-for-radicals/

(Apologies for the high price for the book, I'll be borrowing a copy from a friend and as such did not check the cost when suggesting it. If you happen to be in the UK, it's slightly cheaper from Hive: https://www.hive.co.uk/Product/Derek-Wall/Elinor-Ostroms-Rules-for-Radicals--Cooperative-Alternativ/21084598 - and hopefully available in the local library wherever you are).

I will start a time poll shortly to schedule in a call, taking place in around about a month from now, which will be a wrap-up discussion on the book. In the meantime there will be plenty of opportunity for online discussion on social.coop mastodon instance and in the matrix chat room.

I'll kick this online discussion off shortly with some thoughts on my expectations from the book.


Michele Kipiel Thu 8 Feb 2018

You can find it on the Kobo bookstore for less than 24€


Neil - @neil@social.coop Tue 6 Feb 2018

These are my initial thoughts on my expectations of the book:

I’m keen to learn about Ostrom’s work on the commons and its governance, in particular her debunking of the notion of the tragedy of the commons.

I’m hoping that the book will be quite practical in outlining ways to achieve alternatives to markets and states. Given its nod to the original Rules for Radicals by Saul Alinsky (subtitle: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals), and my understanding that Elinor Ostrom was herself very practically-minded, this will hopefully be the case. I’m also assuming that the alternatives presented will be commons-based, given Ostrom’s work.

I also think it will be interesting to find challenges in the ideas, opinions outside of my usual bubble, as I understand that Ostrom did not identify with the ‘traditional’ left (whatever that is). Although Derek Wall is quite definitely left-wing, I have seen some description of Ostrom as having no easily defineable politics in the usual terms, being neither anarchist, free marketeer, or central planner. I do hope it will focus mostly on the ideas and not too much on the individual, but nonetheless Ostrom does seem an interesting character.

What do others hope to learn?


Neil - @neil@social.coop Tue 6 Feb 2018

Here's some ideas on how we can get discussion flowing on the book:

  • Mastodon: toot about the ideas in the book with the #readinggroup tag. As not everyone on social.coop is in the reading group, try to keep toots based around the book's content, which will probably be of general interest, and we'll use Loomio for more admin-y stuff.
  • This Loomio thread: I will weekly put an update on progress and summarise/prompt discussion if someone wants to post something a bit longer than a toot on thoughts so far.
  • Matrix - I'll schedule in a chat halfway through the month, but of course anyone can dip in at any time to the room, organize chats for different timezones, etc.
  • Jitsi/Zoom - I'll schedule a call for the end of the reading period.
  • Wiki - I'll try to capture the essence of the discussions and debates on the wiki and everyone is encouraged to add/edit.

Erik Moeller Tue 6 Feb 2018

All sounds great to me Neil, thanks for getting the ball rolling. What I hope to get from the book: I'm a secular humanist and democratic socialist, with strong emphasis on the "democratic" part. I'm interested in cooperative economic models that keep the role of central government to what's necessary (which may well be significant support in terms of data, shared resources, and so on, as well as a muscular redistributive component and strong incentives for cooperative economic action). Ostrom sounds like a fascinating thinker I'd never heard of, so I look forward to getting to know her ideas better through Wall's perspective.


Poll Created Tue 6 Feb 2018

Voice chat to discuss the book Closed Mon 12 Feb 2018

by Neil - @neil@social.coop Mon 12 Feb 2018

Thanks everyone, we'll go with the time with the most people available - 11th March 9pm UTC.

Scheduling in a voice chat to discuss the book when we have finished reading it. Please mark the times that you could make. It's hard to find a time that works across continents, so we may end up needing to have two calls.


Europe/London Votes FD MC MN EM ED MK MAS
Fri 9 Mar 2018, 21:00 3
Sat 10 Mar 2018, 09:00 2
Sat 10 Mar 2018, 21:00 3
Sun 11 Mar 2018, 09:00 3
Sun 11 Mar 2018, 21:00 4
Sat 10 Mar 2018, 16:00 2
Sun 11 Mar 2018, 16:00 3

7 of 23 people have voted (30%)


Matt Noyes Tue 6 Feb 2018

Fri 9 Mar 2018

Sorry! I am visiting coops in rural Japan that weekend... Any chance we could do it on the 8th, US time?


Gabriela Avram Sat 10 Feb 2018

Sun 11 Mar 2018

Sorry, travelling that weekend!


Neil - @neil@social.coop Tue 6 Feb 2018

For those that just participated in the poll (thanks for being so prompt!) - I just added a couple of extra times in.


Neil - @neil@social.coop Tue 6 Feb 2018

Turns out it's a pretty short book - minus bibliography and index we're looking at ~30 pages a week.
Everyone free to go at your own pace of course, but this is personally how I'm going to try and break the chapters down:

1. Elinor Ostrom’s Radical Life
2. The Commons: From Tragedy to Triumph

(Bonus read if people want something while waiting to access the book: Tragedy of the Commons - http://science.sciencemag.org/content/162/3859/1243.full)

3. Climate Change, Ecology and Green Politics
4. Beyond Markets and States
5. Deep Democracy

6. Feminism and Intersectionality
7. Trust and Cooperation
8. Science for the People

9. Transforming Institutions
10. Conflict and Contestation


Matt Noyes Tue 6 Feb 2018

Thanks, Neil.


Neil - @neil@social.coop Thu 8 Feb 2018

Hi Matt, to reply to your comment on the time poll - I can't make the Thursday unfortunately as my organisation has a board meeting that evening. Sorry about that. Your trip on the weekend sounds fantastic!


Matt Noyes Wed 7 Feb 2018

My interests and expectations are a lot like Neil's -- I like the idea of a radical reading of book that is not necessarily radical in intention. I also like those idiosyncratic thinkers who are hard to pigeon-hole, sounds like Ostrom is one. Since reading Gibson-Graham and Kate Raworth, I am interested in how feminism helps us reframe economics.


cloudwater Wed 7 Feb 2018

Really interested in Ostrom for a while. Already read the first chapter. I'm interested in her rather unique influences, as she seems to be influenced a lot by Buchanin. She, however, seems to take an extremely critical view of almost all major assumptions of the free market fanatics. She's not explicitly left, but she payed attention to the data and it lead her to left wing conclusions. Can't wait to continue reading once the book gets here.


Michele Kipiel Thu 8 Feb 2018

Just got the ebook, can't wait to jump into it! :)


Neil - @neil@social.coop Tue 13 Feb 2018

Hey all - checking in after W1 of reading. How's everyone getting on? Thoughts on the book so far?

I've read chapters 1 and 2 and have captured my thoughts in a couple of blog posts:

In a very short summary: it's ticking the boxes that I hoped for before starting - it's practical rules on getting things done, and certainly Ostrom's not-easy-to-define position is making me think outside of my usual box - definitely a good thing. Good to also get a basic intro to some of ideas and terms around commons and their management too.

To keep on a decent pace for finishing by March 11th, I'm aiming for these chapters in the coming week:

3. Climate Change, Ecology and Green Politics
4. Beyond Markets and States
5. Deep Democracy

Neil - @neil@social.coop Tue 13 Feb 2018

I still find contradiction between statements like "her work shows that the foundational assumption that human beings are rational maximisers, locked into selfish and competitive behaviour, can be challenged" (p.17) and "Clearly, some kind of punishment or sanction is necessary as it is unlikely that good will on its own will prevent abuse of the commons.” (p.30) but thanks to the discussion on Mastodon for some thoughts on that. Thoroughly enjoying the reading group so far!


Neil - @neil@social.coop Tue 20 Feb 2018

Hey all, end of week 2 of the reading group. Erik's finished and written a review here: https://lib.reviews/review/e77ddff2-0ea2-47b1-9341-10031a2e27a2

Thomas mentioned he was still waiting for the book to arrive. As a short one at around 120 pages, still plenty of time for completion.

I'm going at a pretty leisurely pace, and have finished chapters 3, 4, and 5. I've not had chance to write detailed thoughts on each chapter yet, but have been posting a few thoughts here and there on the #readinggroup tag.

I think Erik's review of the book is pretty fair - I think it could have been executed better, the writing/editing could have been tighter; shame, because a rigorous application of Ostrom's thinking to modern activist dilemmas (as put by Luke) if done well could have been 5 stars for sure. Still, it works as a light primer on Ostrom's ideas (at least for me who knew nothing of them previously) and I'm getting a lot from the book.


Neil - @neil@social.coop Tue 20 Feb 2018

Over the next week I'll be reading:

6 Feminism and Intersectionality

7 Trust and Cooperation

8 Science for the People


Neil - @neil@social.coop Sun 11 Mar 2018

Here's a rough plan for the call today:

Time: https://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/fixedtime.html?msg=social.coop+monthly+chat&iso=20180311T21&p1=136
Duration: 1 hour (I personally can overrun to 1 hour 30 mins if needed :) )

  • 5 mins setup/welcomes
  • 15 minutes, a few minutes each person giving their thoughts on the book overall
    • flag if there's any particular topic you'd like to discuss in more depth
  • 35 minutes discussing topics as raised during the intros
    • loosely aligned with the chapters
  • 5 minutes wrap up

We'll be at https://meet.jit.si/socialcoop (more notes on call logisitcs in the logistics thread: https://www.loomio.org/d/VOMadXxu/reading-group-logistics)

Catch you later!