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The Quest to Understand Human Affairs

Essays on Collective, Constitutional, and Epistemic Choice, Volume 2

Vincent Ostrom - Edited by Barbara Allen

The second volume of The Quest to Understand Human Affairs presents thirty-six previously unpublished manuscripts written by Vincent Ostrom, cofounder of the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis. The essays are divided among three parts: Constitutional Choice, Epistemic Choice, and The Quest for Understanding and the Future of Democratic Self-Governance. Part I, Constitutional Choice, includes studies on public sector performance and the constitutional dilemmas facing the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the North American “New World” of US constitutionalism, and the United States of Mexico. In the essays of Part II, Ostrom turns to the foundational ideas on which the institutions of a particular culture rest. He raises questions about the methodologies of the social sciences and insists that we return to “basic questions” in our search for institutional forms that will liberate human communities. Part III offers the reader a colloquy on self-governance in which Ostrom’s speeches and presentations on a variety of twenty-first-century issues are supplemented with letters and memos between Ostrom and visiting scholars and students.

These remarkable works not only offer specialists insight into developments in the fields of institutional analysis, resource governance, policy and administration—during the second half of the twentieth century and first decade of the new millennium—but also speak to general readers about worldwide transformations in democracies and human and environment relations as well as the enduring challenge of sustaining just, productive political orders. The Quest to Understand Human Affairs is introduced with a foreword by Nobel Laureate and co-founder of the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis, Elinor Ostrom, with a preface by the editor of the volume, political theorist Barbara Allen.
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Lexington Books
Pages: 676Size: 6 1/2 x 9 1/4
978-0-7391-6805-9 • Hardback • February 2012 • $158.00 • (£105.00)
978-0-7391-6811-0 • Paperback • February 2012 • $62.99 • (£42.95)
Vincent Ostrom is the founding director of the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis and Arthur F. Bentley Professor Emeritus of political science at Indiana University in Bloomington.

Barbara Allen is professor of political science at Carleton College.
Foreword by Elinor Ostrom
David Hume as a Political Analyst
The Individual and the Constitutional Order in the American Federal Republic
Constitutional Choice in Postcolonial Polities: The Federal Republic of Nigeria
The Challenge of Federalism
Guidance, Control, and Performance in the Public Sector
Some Conjectures about the Shape of the Political Science to Come
Buchanan’s Opening to Constitutional Choice and Meta Levels of Analysis
Constitutional Choice in the Spanish New World
Federalism in the Affairs of Everyday Life
The Challenge Facing the Mexican Revolution in Its Third Century
Political Characteristics of the Pacific Northwest:
A Challenge to Research—The Problem of Method
Freedom and Organization
Implications of Epistemic Choice for Political Science Methodologies
Federalism and Consociationalism: Competing or Complementary Approaches?
Conceptualizing the Nature and Magnitude of the Task of Institutional Analysis and Development
Culture, Liberation Movements, and Human Development
Some Ontological and Epistemological Puzzles in Policy Analysis
Interpreting Social Experiments: An Agenda for Critical Reflections and Inquiry about a Research
Program in Comparative Institutional Analysis and Development
Great Experiments and the Welfare State: Basic Paradigmatic Challenges
To the Readers of the Chinese Translation [of The Meaning of American Federalism]
A Continuing Colloquy on Self-Governance
Democracy and Self-Governance
The Inevitability of Democracy
Some Requisites for Understanding Viable
Constitutional Designs
Memos to Colleagues and Students
Workshop Analytics and Tocquevillian Analytics
Experiments in Constitutional Choice
The Use of Theory to Study Problems of Institutional Analysis and Design
Studying Democracy in America: Learning to be Self-Governing by Vincent Ostrom and Barbara Allen
Democratic Transformations: From the Struggle for Democracy to Self-Governance? by Michael McGinnis and Vincent Ostrom
Federalism and the Exercise of Self-Governing Capabilities
Rethinking Federalism
The Spirit of Federalism
What is Federalism? A Search for Meaning
Self-Government and Federalism
Revisiting Public Administration and Democratic Governance
Political Theory and Public Administration
Syracuse Notes: How Do We Conceptualize the Meaning of the American Experiment?
Some Developments in the Study of Market Choice, Public Choice, and Institutional Choice
The Continuing Challenge of Constitutional Choice
Why Were There So Many Constitutional Failures in the Twentieth Century?
An Assessment of Failure and the Challenge Ahead
Citizen-Sovereigns: The Implications of Hamilton’s Query and Tocqueville’s Conjecture about the Democratic
Volume II builds magnificently on the themes of the first volume. Once again Barbara Allen has expertly edited Vincent Ostrom's writings. In this collection readers will find a reflective Ostrom applying his keen understanding of decentralized systems to problems philosophical, practical, and pedagogical. It is impossible to read these essays and not be inspired to think differently about one's own research.
Jenna Bednar, University of Michigan

Vincent Ostrom made many significant and profound contributions to political theory and public policy. The Quest to Understand Human Affairs presents Ostrom's work in collective, constitutional, and epistemic choice. His project is a radical one exploring the foundation of self-governance, and the self-governing capacity of the citizenry. And, nobody has done more than Vincent Ostrom in understanding the burdens of the democratic way of life, and the political structures consistent with that way of life.
Peter Boettke, George Mason University

Thirty-six previously unpublished papers explore Vincent Ostrom's work in the fields of institutional analysis, resource governance, public policy, and public administration.
Journal of Economic Literature