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It’s… Nobel Week! October 14, 2009

Posted by mmonla in Architecture, Politics.
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Congratulations to Elinor Ostrom for her Nobel Prize in economics. It’s refreshing to see a political theorist win the coveted prize and I’d like to see this trend continue. I personally disagree with the view that economics is somehow more “scientific” that political theory or sociology. By exclusively rewarding market theorists, we’ve been cementing the notion that economics is a stand-alone discipline that can successfully exist independently of a social and political context. In fact, this should have been a social sciences prize all along.

According to Robert Shiller, a Yale University economist, “this award is part of the merging of the social sciences. Economics has been too isolated and too stuck on the view that markets are efficient and self-regulating. It has derailed our thinking.”

As for Ms. Ostrom’s work:

Ms. Ostrom’s work deals in the concept of “commons” shared by a number of people who earn their living from a common resource and have a stake, therefore, in preserving it. Her most recent research has focused on relatively small forests in undeveloped countries. Groups of people share the right to harvest lumber from a particular forest, and so they have a stake in making sure the forest survives (NY Times).

I’m interested in seeing what implications her work may have on architecture. Privatization of land has always been used as a solution to the overexploitation of a common resource, otherwise known as the tragedy of the commons. In particular, I’m thinking of public space – the private shopping mall vs. the public street. Could our public spaces be designed and/or programmed in such a way as to encourage the kind of behaviour Ms. Ostrom is describing?