Polycentricity: Studies in Institutional Diversity and Voluntary Governance

This interdisciplinary series explores the varieties of social institutions, processes, and patterns of governance that emerge through individuals’ coordination, cooperation, and competition in governance systems based on freedom of choice, freedom of exchange, and freedom of association. Under conditions of relative freedom of association, human diversity leads to institutional diversity and polycentric structures. In contrast to monocentric, unitary, and hierarchical command and control systems, polycentric social systems comprise many decision centers interacting freely under an overarching set of common rules. First introduced by Michael Polanyi as a descriptive and normative feature of free societies and further elaborated by Nobel Prize in Economics recipient Elinor Ostrom and public choice political economy co-founder Vincent Ostrom, the notion of polycentricity has proven itself able to offer a powerful analytical framework for expanding our understanding of the operation of governance regimes, constitutional federalism, law, public administration, private ordering, civics and citizenship, subsidiarity, nonprofit organization, cultural pluralism, civil society and entrepreneurship. Studies in this series will refine the conceptual framework of polycentricity and its governance theory implications, while expanding their application in the study of what Alexis de Tocqueville called the art and science of association. These studies should be of interest to scholars, policymakers, executives, social entrepreneurs, and citizens working to devise ways of living together harmoniously in civil societies.