Ostrom and the lawyers: The impact of Governing the Commons on the American legal academy

Carol M. Rose

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


American legal academics began to cite Elinor Ostrom's Governing the Commons (GC) shortly after its 1990 publication, with citations peaking in the mid-2000s and with signs of a new peak in 2010 in the wake of Ostrom's Nobel Prize in Economics. The legal scholars most interested in GC have worked in three areas: general property theory, environmental and natural resource law, and since the mid-1990s, intellectual property. In all those areas legal scholars have found GC and its many examples a strong source of support for the proposition that people can cooperate to overcome common pool resource issues, managing resources through informal norms rather than either individual property or coercive government. Legal academics have also been at least mildly critical of GC, however. A number have tried to balance the attractive features of GC's governance model - stability and sustainability - with more standard legal models favoring toward open markets, fluid change and egalitarianism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)28-49
Number of pages22
JournalInternational Journal of the Commons
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Commons
  • Environmental law
  • Governing the Commons
  • Intellectual property
  • Ostrom
  • Property theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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