About eBook 2017-12-01T13:00:35+00:00

Free eBook DOWNLOAD 2nd Edition


Changes to second edition: We updated the material in line with current events and replaced chapters on digital commons, health commons and sport with chapters on resilience, coupled infrastructure systems and polycentric governance. This makes the book more focused on sustainability related topics, the main use of the text book in practice. Download 1st Edition

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About the Book

This textbook discusses the main framework, concepts and applications of the work of Elinor Ostrom and her colleagues for an undergraduate audience. We began teaching a course on collective and the commons in 2007 at Arizona State University. Initially we made use of Ostrom’s classic book “Governing the Commons”, but this book was not written for an undergraduate audience. Moreover, many new insights have been developed since the 1990 publication of “Governing the Commons”. Therefore we decided to write our own textbook, which we have been using since the Spring of 2012.

In this book you will learn about institutions–the rules and norms that guide the interactions among us. Those rules and norms can be found from traffic rules, rules in sports, regulations on when and where alcohol can be consumed, to constitutional rules that define who can become president of the United States of America. Rules and norms guide us to cooperative outcomes of so-called collective action problems. If we rely on voluntary contributions only to get anything done, this may not lead to the best results. But research also shows that coercion of people to comply to strict rules do not necessary lead to good outcomes. What combination of sticks and carrots is needed to be successful to solve collective action problems such as sustaining the commons?

The book is based on the work of Elinor Ostrom and her colleagues. Ostrom is best known as the 2009 co-recipient of the Nobel Prize in Economics “for her analysis of economic governance, especially the commons”. Elinor Ostrom was a professor at Indiana University since the mid 1960s, and a part-time research professor at Arizona State University since 2006. She was active in research and teaching until her death at the age of 78 on June 12, 2012.

Elinor Ostrom

More information on the work of Elinor Ostrom can be found at:

Nobel Prize website

Website at Indiana University

Relevant Links

Some related websites you may find of interest:

Center for Behavior, Institutions and the Environment (CBIE), Arizona State University – the authors’ research center.

The Vincent and Elinor Ostrom Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis, Indiana University – the research center founded by the Ostroms in 1973.

International Association to Study the Commons – an international society for scholars who study the commons.

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