Comparative Economic Studies

, Volume 56, Issue 1, pp 52–76 | Cite as

Institutional Resilience and Economic Systems: Lessons from Elinor Ostrom’s Work

  • Paul Dragos Aligica
  • Vlad Tarko


Comparative economic systems literature deals extensively with ‘systemic functions’ and ‘performance criteria’ such as growth, efficiency and equity but rarely mentions the topic of resilience. This paper focusses on the issue of resilience while drawing several important lessons from the contributions in this respect of 2009 Nobel Prize in Economics co-recipient, Elinor Ostrom: The effects of alternative institutional arrangements and social norms as a source of both resilience and vulnerability; the problem of ‘highly optimized tolerance’ to specific sources of uncertainty; polycentricity as a possible structural solution to sustainability problems. A key point is that resilience is more than mere ‘absorptive capacity’ or ‘speed of recovery’: it depends on innovation and creative socio-cultural adaptations made possible by flexible and polycentric institutional processes. That has important implications for the ways we define and assess institutional performance and institutional design.


institutional theory socio-ecological systems institutions comparative economic systems vulnerability institutional design polycentricity 

JEL Classifications

B52 D02 O17 O43 P48 


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Copyright information

© Association for Comparative Economics 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul Dragos Aligica
    • 1
  • Vlad Tarko
    • 1
  1. 1.George Mason UniversityArlingtonUSA

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