Journal of Institutional Economics

Research Article

Two enduring lessons from Elinor Ostrom

BRETT M. FRISCHMANN 

Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University, New York, NY 10003, USA

Abstract:

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.

(Online publication April 10 2013)

Correspondence

Email: frischma@yu.edu

Footnotes

  The author wishes to thank the editor-in-chief, two anonymous referees, Michael Burstein, Daniel Cole, Michael Madison, Al Roundtree, Charles Schweik, Alex Stein, and Katherine Strandburg for their constructive comments and suggestions. The usual disclaimer applies.