Ostrom's Law: Property Rights in the Commons

International Journal of the Commons, Vol. 5, No. 1, pp. 9-27, 2011

University of Chicago Institute for Law & Economics Olin Research Paper No. 584

19 Pages Posted: 21 Nov 2011 Last revised: 29 Nov 2011

Lee Anne Fennell

University of Chicago - Law School

Date Written: February 1, 2011

Abstract

In this symposium essay, I trace some of the ways that Elinor Ostrom’s focus on situated examples has advanced interdisciplinary dialogue about property as a legal institution and as a human invention for solving practical problems. Although the richness of these contributions cannot be distilled into a single thesis, their flavor can be captured in a maxim I call Ostrom’s Law: A resource arrangement that works in practice can work in theory. I begin by highlighting the attention to detail that characterizes Ostrom’s methodology. I then examine how Ostrom’s scholarship yields insights for, and employs insights from, property theory. Next, I consider the question of scale, an important focal point of Ostrom’s work, and one that carries profound implications for law. I conclude with some observations about interdisciplinarity as it relates to research on the commons.

Keywords: anticommons, commons, interdisciplinarity, models, scale, semicommons

Suggested Citation

Fennell, Lee Anne, Ostrom's Law: Property Rights in the Commons (February 1, 2011). International Journal of the Commons, Vol. 5, No. 1, pp. 9-27, 2011; University of Chicago Institute for Law & Economics Olin Research Paper No. 584. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1962336

Lee Anne Fennell (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Law School ( email )

1111 E. 60th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
United States
773-702-0603 (Phone)

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