Ostrom Meets the Urban Global-South

"Elinor Ostrom’s research related to the possibilities of cooperation, supported by commonly defined rules and institutional diversity, as an alternative or complementary tool to state and market mechanisms, has proved particularly convincing in governing collectively common-pool resources at the local level and in the rural world. The more complex “social dilemma situations” and political decision arenas are and exogenous variables have to be considered, the more difficult it is to explain why particular political behavior and outcomes occur. In this contribution, we argue that Ostrom’s assumptions related to rational behavior, as the basis of game theory, only very boundedly apply to the context of metropolises in the Global South, marked by extreme biophysical, institutional, and cultural diversity, as well as extreme asymmetrical power relations and, thus, political conflict structures, rendering a direct application of her framework difficult. Considering the example of the São Paulo Macrometropilis (Brazil), we point out some of these biophysical, institutional, cultural and political particularities/complexities in order to evidence the challenge of polycentric governance based on cooperation and commonly decided rules in an adverse sociopolitical context, concluding with some arising challenges for an ongoing research project on environmental governance in the metropolis of São Paulo in the context of climate variability."
governance, cooperation