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Which clippings match 'Individual Choice' keyword pg.1 of 1
22 SEPTEMBER 2016

Elinor Ostrom and the solution to the tragedy of the commons

Elinor Ostrom's "research concerned the governance of common resources (also known as commons). The commons are natural resources, like land for grazing, fishing areas, forests for timber, water for the irrigation of farmland, and also more intangible resources, like knowledge, for which it is very expensive to control and fence in 'user' consumption. The problem with these types of resources, as shown in 1968 by Garrett Hardin (but Aristotle had already observed a similar phenomenon) is that they are over-exploited, or at least their care and sustainability is overlooked by users. The reason is that people behave opportunistically (like free-riders) and consider the resource they are accessing, without the possibility of being excluded, as a free resource, and they therefore maximize their private benefits but neglect, or collectivize, the costs.

Hardin coined the phrase 'tragedy of the commons' to describe this phenomenon and gave social sciences one of the most evocative metaphors after Adam Smith’s 'invisible hand'. These two metaphors are effective because they capture two essential social situations in marked contrast to one another. When social interactions are guided by an invisible hand, they reconcile individual choice and socially desirable results, whereas in the tragedy of the commons, individuals pursuing their private objectives cause disastrous consequences for themselves and others. The solution to the tragedy of the commons, before the contribution of Ostrom and her studies, was to privatize resources or, in a diametrically opposite view, to form a Leviathan state in order to manage them.

Instead, Ostrom demonstrated that, within communities, rules and institutions of non-market and not resulting from public planning can emerge from the bottom up to ensure a sustainable, shared management of resources, as well as one that is efficient from an economical point of view. Besides the village of Törbel, Ostrom shows examples of common lands in the Japanese villages of Hirano and Nagaike, the huerta irrigation mechanism between Valencia, Murcia and Alicante in Spain, and the zanjera irrigation community in the Philippines. Also, the property in the form of 'vicinale', neighborhoods, typical of regions of Italy like Emilia, the Belluno and the Ticino, are also collective institutions, although not investigated by Ostrom. The argument then has a more modern example if one notices that even the 'Wikipedia community' is a form of successful collective institution of a communal resource (knowledge)."

(Flavio Felice, Massimiliano Vatiero, 27 June 2012)

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Adam Smith • American political economist • assets • Belluno • bottom-up organisation • collective institutions • collective interests • common pool resources (CPR) • common propertycommons • communal resource • economic governance • economic science • Elinor Ostrom • Emilia • English Industrial Revolution • exploitationfencing • Flavio Felice • Garrett Hardin • governance of common resources • Hirano • huerta irrigation mechanism • individual choice • invisible hand • Karl Polanyi • land management • Massimiliano Vatiero • Nagaike • natural resourcesopportunism • over-exploitation • political economics • political economist • political economyprivate control • privatisation • privatisation of land • public government • public planning • resource managementsocial interactionssocial situation • socially desirable results • sustainabilitysustainability thinking • Ticino • Torbel • tragedy of the commons • vicinale • Wikipedia • Wikipedia community • zanjera irrigation community

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
15 NOVEMBER 2015

The hipster as the postmodern dandy

"The hipster is, concurrently, developing into a form of youth subculture, though at present in a limited sense. Many of the tropes and defining characteristics of teenage tribalism are being draped in hipster attire, but with little of the angst-ridden and socio-economic preliminaries at the base of earlier subcultural trends and movements, such as skinheads, goths and punks (or some recipe based thereon). Without a solid, or at least only slightly shifting, base in materiality and social context, the attire of this set of genuinely disenfranchised youth is sign only; the woolly hat and the running shoe are talismans devoid of any intended meaning; the world seems flooded with signs without symbolism, with younger converts to the hipster 'style' aping their ape forebears. The sign has, in this context, lost its original referent and become 'hyperreal' (Baudrillard, 1994, p.1). The 'real' origin of the sign's meaning has been lost, or buried under meaningless affectation; the borrowing and commodification of a modern exoticism; that of various minority or 'retro' alternative fashions and attitudes. In reference to subcultural groups, Hebdige notes that 'humble' objects can be magically appropriated; 'stolen' by subordinate groups and made to carry 'secret' meanings' (1979, cited in Haralambos and Holborn, 2004, p.808). This explains the way punks could style safety pins into a new context, and teddy boys could subvert the traditional connotations of Edwardian formality – the coded meanings that charge such appropriated style-objects amounted to a kind of resistance to the ruling order, be that signified by the state or in the 'square' world of the mainstream. Each subculture is in some way 'spectacular', in that it creates a spectacle and intends to be noticed. The hipster is daily losing this status, as s/he becomes overloaded with signifiers (aesthetic surface) and has become divorced from the collective; there is no need for internal reinforcement against a subordinating external force when one has such a slippery class composition. The hipster is not oppressed, and purports to signify the pinnacle of individual choice and cultural savoir faire (though this position is problematized by the amoebic development of a youth subculture with roots in working class communities). The hipster's resistance is not to social subordination but to modernity itself, to a meaning-deficit brought on by a loosely defined, insecure mainstream culture that is less and less able to provide collective ontological sustenance. Perhaps the youth-hipster is an attempt to introduce a degree of collectivity in order to partially overcome alienation and inwardness, though this does not excuse the continued loss of substance and meaning in style and aesthetic value."

(Michael Reeve, 2013, Academia.edu)

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2013 • appropriated style-objects • boredomcommodificationcontagious assemblages • cultural bricolage • cultural codescultural resistance • cultural savoir faire • dandyism • Dick Hebdige • disaffected youth • disenfranchised youth • dressing up • Edwardian formality • facial hair • fashionable fad • hipster attire • hipster fashion • hipster girl • hipster style • hipster subculture • Holborn • identity performanceindividual choice • Jack Kerouac • Jean Baudrillardliminality rites • loss of meaning • loss of substance • Martin Holborn • meaningless affectation • Michael Haralambos • modern exoticism • plaid shirt • popular culturesocial contextsocial inventionsocial norms • social subordination • spectacular societystyle • subcultural groups • subcultural trends • talismanteddy boy • teenage tribalism • universe of regularised mutual responseurban clothing • urban fashion • youth subculture

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
27 NOVEMBER 2010

Republic.com: individual experience causing social fragmentation?

"MIT technology specialist Nicholas Negroponte prophecies the emergence of 'the Daily Me'––a communications package that is personally designed, with each component fully chosen in advance [4]. Many of us are applauding these developments, which obviously increase individual convenience and entertainment. But in the midst of the applause, we should insist on asking some questions. How will the increasing power of private control affect democracy? How will the Internet, the new forms of television, and the explosion of communications options alter the capacity of citizens to govern themselves? What are the social preconditions for a well–functioning system of democratic deliberation, or for individual freedom itself? ...

A large part of my aim is to explore what makes for a well–functioning system of free expression. Above all, I urge that in a diverse society, such a system requires far more than restraints on government censorship and respect for individual choices. For the last decades, this has been the preoccupation of American law and politics, and indeed the law and politics of many other nations as well, including, for example, Germany, France, England, and Israel. Censorship is indeed a threat to democracy and freedom. But an exclusive focus on government censorship produces serious blind spots. In particular, a well–functioning system of free expression must meet two distinctive requirements.

First, people should be exposed to materials that they would not have chosen in advance. Unplanned, unanticipated encounters are central to democracy itself. Such encounters often involve topics and points of view that people have not sought out and perhaps find quite irritating. They are important partly to ensure against fragmentation and extremism, which are predictable outcomes of any situation in which like–minded people speak only with themselves. I do not suggest that government should force people to see things that they wish to avoid. But I do contend that in a democracy deserving the name, people often come across views and topics that they have not specifically selected.

Second, many or most citizens should have a range of common experiences. Without shared experiences, a heterogeneous society will have a much more difficult time in addressing social problems. People may even find it hard to understand one another. Common experiences, emphatically including the common experiences made possible by the media, provide a form of social glue. A system of communications that radically diminishes the number of such experiences will create a number of problems, not least because of the increase in social fragmentation.

As preconditions for a well–functioning democracy, these requirements hold in any large nation. They are especially important in a heterogeneous nation, one that faces an occasional risk of fragmentation. They have all the more importance as each nation becomes increasingly global and each citizen becomes, to a greater or lesser degree, a 'citizen of the world."

(Cass Sunstein, 2002)

Sunstein, C. (2002). "The Daily Me". Republic.com, Princeton University Press.

Fig.1 San Liu (2004) 'Narcissism' webshots.com.

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1995 • being digital • Cass Sunsteincensorship • citizen of the world • citizenshipcommon experiences • communications technologies • consumer choiceconveniencecultural signalsdemocracy • democratic deliberation • democratic participation • democratic society • digital culturediversityemerging technologiesempathy • extremism • filter • Fishwrap • fragmentationfree expressionfreedomfreedom of speechglobalisation • government censorship • heterogeneity • heterogeneous society • individual choiceindividual experienceindividual freedomindividualisminformation in context • international relations • Internetisolationmedia consumptionMITnarcissismnew forms of televisionNicholas Negroponteparticipationpersonalisation • political philosophy • power • Princeton University Press • private control • Republic.com • shared experiencesocial changesocial constructionismsocial fragmentationsocial gluesocial interactionthe Daily Me

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
07 JULY 2009

Barry Schwartz: The paradox of choice

"Psychologist Barry Schwartz takes aim at a central tenet of western societies: freedom of choice. In Schwartz's estimation, choice has made us not freer but more paralyzed, not happier but more dissatisfied."

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2005 • Barry Schwartz • challenging conventional thinkingchoiceconsumer choiceconsumer culture • cost of a choice • cost-benefit analysis • customer satisfactiondecision makingdissatisfaction • economic efficiency • expectationfreedom of choicehappinessindividual choiceindividual freedomindividualisminformation anxiety • microeconomic theory • opportunity costoverloadparadox • paralysis • Pareto efficiency • Pareto optimality • performativitypsychology • real cost • resource allocation • salad dressing • satisfaction • scarce resources • skip culture • TED Talksthe Daily Me • Vilfredo Pareto • Western societies • what I reckon

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
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