Research Handbooks on Globalisation and the Law series
Edited by Ugo Mattei and John D. Haskell
Chapter 28: The architecture of commons legal institutions
When Elinor Ostrom received the 2009 Nobel Prize in Economics, varieties of neoclassical economics dominated economic thought in academia and policy. The mainstream consensus, expressed in the work of authors such as Garrett Hardin, held that the success or failure of resource management was determined by the wealth-maximising individual, homo oeconomicus. Self-interest facilitated by private property arrangements naturally led to efficient and sustainable use of resources, and communal-based distributive efforts inevitably led to ruin. Ostrom’s scholarship broke significantly with the establishment perspective, demonstrating through diverse case studies and her ground-breaking book Governing the Commons not only that cooperation and sharing were central within many property arrangements, but that such practices may actually lead to more sustainable uses of resources. Ostrom’s success represented a growing heterodoxy that sought a shift from a purely ‘economic’ or ‘political’ orientation in academic and policymaking to a more inclusive perspective that might help to rethink the institutional design of resource allocation, particularly in the case of crucial and scarce resources. Highlighting the important nexus between modes of governance, production and social relations, Ostrom’s work raises new challenges for scholars of global economics today.
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