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17:30 to 18:30
End date
05 March 2019
Haldane Room, Wolfson College, Linton Rd, Oxford OX2 6UD
Tuesday, 5 March 2019 - 5:30pm to 6:30pm


Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action

Book Colloquium

***NOTE: Due to popular demand, this book colloquium has been relocated to the Haldane Room at Wolfson College***

In 2009, Elinor Olstrom became – and remains – the only woman to win the Nobel Prize in Economics, awarded for her analysis of economic governance, especially the commons. Ten years on, we revisit her groundbreaking book Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action.

The governance of natural resources used by many individuals in common is an issue of increasing concern to policy analysts. Both state control and privatisation of resources have been advocated, but neither the state nor the market have been uniformly successful in solving common pool resource problems.

Offering a critique of the foundations of policy analysis as applied to natural resources, Dr Ostrom explores different ways – both successful and unsuccessful – of governing the commons. She seeks solutions to the “Tragedy of the Commons”, analysing both the prisoners’ dilemma and innovative use of game theory to provide alternatives to narrowly constructed models of rational choice.

Through the book’s richly detailed case studies of meadows, forests, and water rights, she demonstrates a pioneering vision for environmental protectionism, defending the vital role that voluntary organizations can play in solving social problems rather than a coercive state.



Denis Galligan, Emeritus Professor of Socio-Legal Studies and Director of Programmes, Foundation for Law, Justice and Society, Oxford

Dr Christopher Decker, Economist and Research Fellow, Faculty of Law, Oxford

Dr Kevin Grecksch, British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow, Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, Oxford


Praise for Governing the Commons

This is an important book that deserves to be read widely in the policy community as well as the scholarly community.

Oran R. Young, International Environmental Affairs


The most influential book in the last decade on thinking about the commons. For those involved with small communities ... Governing the Commons has been the intellectual field guide.

Whole Earth