Ellickson-style Norm Analysis — How to Proceed

Identify a general topic and learn something about it. Observe if you can. Read about it. Become ethnographically familiar with the phenomena under investigation. Note that this does not, in general, involve reading a lot of sociology about the topic!

Write up a short rough draft on background & description of topic ( not more than 5 pages)

Next we need to zero in on an aspect of the thing that will be intersting and amenable to the type of analysis we are trying to do. Essentially, we are attempting to "test" Ellickson's hypothesis that close-knit groups evolve welfare maximizing norms to govern everyday affairs. This means we need to select an aspect of the thing we are looking at that will permit us to

  • assess the relative costs and benefits to groups members of the various rules and control techniques that COULD govern the behavior in question
  • be able to observe or otherwise know something about group relations, styles of interaction, etc. among the population/community we are talking about
  • actually identify some potential conflict or disagreement or grievance — in other words, there has to be some social control action possible

Next we need to identify opportunities for conflict and analyze these using game theoretic tools in the style Ellickson does.

Then we are going to have to describe the community. Networks, interaction, frequency. And then the actual behaviors, norms, use of third parties, rules, etc. What really happens? Does this group appear to use social norms to govern this behavior? If so, are they "welfare maximizing"? If not, why not? Is this a counterexample to Ellickson's hypothesis or does it offer an opportunity to enrich the theory by showing conditions that cause outcome of hypothesis not to hold?