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David Patterson Ellerman (born March 14, 1943) is a philosopher and author who works in the fields of economics and political economy, social theory and philosophy, and in mathematics. He has written extensively on workplace democracy based on a modern treatment of the labor theory of property and the theory of inalienable rights as rights based on de facto inalienable capacities.


His undergraduate degree is in philosophy from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1965), and he has master's degrees in Philosophy of Science (1967) and in Economics (1968), and a doctorate in Mathematics (1971) all from Boston University.


He has been in and out of teaching in economics, mathematics, accounting, computer science, and operations research departments in various universities (1970–90), co-founded the Industrial Co-operative Association in Massachusetts in the 1980s, founded and managed a consulting firm in East Europe (1990-2), and worked in the World Bank from 1992 to 2003 where he was an economic advisor to the Chief Economist (Joseph Stiglitz and Nicholas Stern). Now he is a visiting scholar at the University of California in Riverside.

Current researchEdit

In his 2007 article on "The Role of Capital in Capitalist Firms," Ellerman achieved a significant breakthrough in analyzing the basic production function of economics in terms of the logic of his labor theory of property. The latter approach has been extensively developed by Ellerman as an explanation and justification for worker-owned firms in co-operative business models and co-operative economics. In addition to his older work in political economy, property theory, and theory of inalienable rights, he has returned to work in the mathematical sciences by developing partition logic (the dual to ordinary Boolean subset logic) and a related approach to information theory. Currently he is developing these ideas to provide an interpretation of quantum mechanics.

Selected publicationsEdit


Recent selected articlesEdit


  • Toward a Corporate Democracy Movement. Perspectives on Work: Magazine of the Industrial Relations Research Association. Vol. 5, No. 2 (2001), 14-17.
  • Introduction to Property Theory: The Fundamental Theorems. Policy Research Working Paper 2692. Washington: World Bank. An updated version.
  • Helping People Help Themselves: Toward a Theory of Autonomy-Compatible Help. Policy Research Working Paper 2693. Washington: World Bank.
  • Not Poles Apart: "Whither Reform?" and "Whence Reform?" Journal of Policy Reform. Vol. 4, No. 4. 325-38. With Joseph Stiglitz.
  • Lessons of East Europe's Voucher Privatization, Challenge. July–August, pp. 14–37.


  • Should development agencies have Official Views? Development in Practice. 12(3&4, August 2002): 285-97.
  • Helping People Help Themselves: Autonomy-Compatible Assistance. In Making Development Work. N. Hanna and R. Picciotto (eds.). New Brunswick NJ: Transaction: 105-33.
  • Transforming the Old into a Foundation for the New: Lessons of the Moldova ARIA Project. World Bank Policy Research Working Paper 2866. Washington DC: World Bank. With Vladimir Kreacic.
  • Autonomy-Respecting Assistance. In Capacity for Development: New Solutions to Old Problems. S. Fukuda-Parr, C. Lopes and K. Malik. New York: Earthscan for UNDP: 43-60.
  • Enterprise ownership, types of. Entry in: The International Encyclopedia of Business and Management, 2nd edition, 8-volume set. Edited by: Malcolm Warner, London: Thomson Learning, 1731-37.


  • Autonomy-Respecting Assistance: Toward New Strategies for Development Assistance. In The New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD): Internal and External Visions. Edited by Rachel Hayman, Kenneth King and Simon McGrath. Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh Centre of African Studies.
  • Should development agencies have Official Views? In Development and the Learning Organization. Ed. by L. Roper, J. Pettit and D. Eade. Oxford: Oxfam GB: 40-57. (reprinted from: Development in Practice, August 2002).
  • Policy Research on Migration and Development. World Bank Policy Research Working Papers(No. 3117): 1-64.
  • New Bridges Across the Chasm: Macro- and Institutional-Strategies for Transitional Economies. In New Thinking in Macroeconomics: Social, Institutional, and Environmental Perspectives. Ed. by J. Harris and N. Goodwin. Northampton MA: Edward Elgar, pp. 30–50. With Joseph Stiglitz.
  • On the Russian Privatization Debates: What has been Learned a Decade Later? Challenge. May–June, 6-28.


  • Migration, Transition, and Aid: Three Development Themes Relevant for South-East Europe. The Southeast European Journal of Economics and Development. 1(1): 11-53.
  • Parallel Experimentation and the Problem of Variation. Knowledge, Technology & Policy. 16(4 Winter): 77-90.
  • Autonomy in Education and Development. Journal of International Cooperation in Education. 7(1): 3-14.
  • Autonomy-Respecting Assistance: Toward An Alternative Theory of Development Assistance. Review of Social Economy. LXII(2 June): 149-68.
  • Corporate Governance, Capital Theory, and Corporate Finance Theory: An Approach from Property Theory. Corporate Ownership & Control. 1(4 Summer): 13-29.
  • Revisiting Hirschman On Development Assistance and Unbalanced Growth. Eastern Economics Journal. Vol. 30, No. 2(Spring 2004), 311-31.
  • Jane Jacobs on Development. Oxford Development Studies. Vol. 32 (4 Dec. 2004), 507-21.







External linksEdit