The world lost a brave, creative mind when Elinor Ostrom died this morning from cancer. She was 78, a professor at Indiana University, and the first woman to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Economic Sciences, in 2009. Without her pioneering work and global outreach, it’s doubtful that the commons would have survived the “tragedy of the commons” myth that Garrett Hardin inflicted on it in 1968. Nor would the commons have gone on to become a respected paradigm of governance, let alone an orienting framework for the current surge of commons policy advocacy and social activism.
In the 1970s, economics was quickly veering into a kind of religious fundamentalism. It was a discipline obsessed with “rational individualism,” private property rights and markets even though the universe of meaningful human activity is much broader and complex. Lin Ostrom pioneered a different, more humanistic way of thinking about “the economy” and resource management. She originally focused on property rights and “common-pool resources,” collective resources over which no one has private property rights or exclusive control, such as fishers, grazing lands and groundwater. This work later evolved into a broader study of the commons as a rich, cross-cultural socio-ecological paradigm. Working within the social sciences, Ostrom proceeded to build a new school of thought within the standard economic narrative while extending it in vital ways.Read it at David Bollier
Elinor Ostrom Remembered (1933-2012)
by David Bollier