Summary from the paper pdf itself:
"More often than not Bloomington institutionalism is seen in a narrow way, i.e. only in relationship to the common pool resources studies, which are, indeed, very salient, yet, in fact, only one of the many dimensions of this research program. The reality is that the study of the "commons" emerged from a broader and deeper intellectual perspective that frames at a foundational level the work of the Bloomington scholars. As such, it is only one of the ways in which this intellectual vision becomes operational in the research practice. A closer look at this "persepctive" reveals that it is complex and profound enough to deserve to be considered what the literative calls a "social theory" or a "social philosophy." Both explicit and implicit in the Ostroms' work are attempts to understand, chart, evaluate, and articulate the basic categories with which we think about the social aspects of human life, as well as a willingness to deal with philosophical questions about social order and social behavior. Encapsulated in their studies are views about the nature and desirability of alternative systems of social organizationand and an effort towards their philosophical understanding. Even more, their empirical and policy-relevant contributions could be positioned in a very telling way at the intersection of several major trends in modern social thinking. Such exercises in interpretation reveal that the Ostroms' contributions not only have a well-defined place in this intellectual history context, but also that, in many respects, their originality transcends the standard schools of thought and disciplinary boundaries. To focus only on the more salient and publicly visible pieces of the research produced by the Bloomington scholars--such as those on "governance" and "commons-- would be to miss and important part of the Ostroms' perspective on social order and institutionalism.
The main objective of this paper is to explore this broader "perspective" that we shall call the "social theory" or the "social philosophy" that presumably shapes, inspires, and defines the Ostroms' research program. Our argument is that what we have called the "social theory" behind the Bloomington School's research agenda has in fact two facets that may or may not be consistent with each other. Even more, they may or may not be necessarily and inseparably connected with the rest of the program. The first is built around the concept of "polycentricity" and a series of Public Choice insights and is a challenge to two of the deepest assumptions of political and economic sciences in the 20thcentury: the monocentric vision of social order and the "market" versus "state" dichotomy. The second is built around a view of social order seen as a knowledge and learning process, along with a series of observations about the human condition, fallibility, coercion, and error as well as about the factors engendering institutional order as a response to the challenges posed by them. But irrespective of how we approach and consider the relationship between these two facets, one thing is clear and stays unchanged: both feature an unambiguous normative engagement on behalf of self-governance and a robust faith in human freedom and human ingenuity."