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Two enduring lessons from Elinor Ostrom


This article is a tribute to Elinor Ostrom. It explores two enduring lessons she taught: a substantive lesson that involves embracing complexity and context, and a methodological lesson that involves embracing a framework-driven approach to systematic, evolutionary learning through various interdisciplinary methodologies, theories, and empirical approaches. First, I discuss Ostrom's work on environmental commons. I illustrate the two lessons through a discussion of the tragedy of the commons. Next, I explain how the two lessons play a significant role in recent efforts to extend Ostrom's work on environmental commons to knowledge/cultural commons. I draw a parallel between the tragedy of the commons allegory and the free-rider allegory, and show how many of the problems Ostrom explored in the environmental context are manifest in the cultural environmental context. I discuss an ongoing research project that follows the path that Ostrom blazed and systematically studies commons in the cultural environment.

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Journal of Institutional Economics
  • ISSN: 1744-1374
  • EISSN: 1744-1382
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-institutional-economics
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