In Memoriam Elinor Ostrom

Chuck Myers, Group Publishers in the Social Sciences, reflects on the passing of Elinor Ostrom.



Elinor Ostrom died earlier today.  I published work by Elinor Ostrom at Princeton, and work coming out of the Workshop as well as a book by her husband Vincent Ostrom at the University of Michigan Press.  Her Princeton titles include Understanding Institutional Diversity and, in collaboration with Amy R. Poteete and Marco Janssen, Working Together:  Collective Action, the Commons, and Multiple Methods in Practice.  The importance of her scholarly work was recognized by receipt of the Nobel Prize in Economics.  I remember hearing her talk at the World Bank about water projects in Nepal when I was a graduate student.  At the talk she pointed out why certain irrigation projects funded by the Bank weren’t working as intended.  She found that richer farmers dominated the body that decided how water would be allocated and kept most of the flow for themselves, denying poorer farmers their share.  This observation grew out of the core of her scholarly work.  As a scholar she was both incisive and concerned with finding out what was happening on the ground.  As an author she was an editor’s dream.

But let me focus on another side of her which is reflected in the title “Working Together.”  Lin Ostrom was the builder of an intellectual community.  With Vincent she founded the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis at Indiana University.  Her enthusiasm for the work of her colleagues at the Workshop and for the work of young scholars was boundless.  She encouraged by example and in the Workshop the sort of interdisciplinary and international collaboration in scholarship that people talk about but seldom engage in.  As I recall the title “workshop” was intentional as she saw intellectual work as a craft that one learned by constant practice and collaboration.  She was hard working and expected nothing less of those who worked with her.  She approached her work and her colleagues with enthusiasm, respect , and a joy in life that energized everyone around her.  Her devotion to her husband Vincent Ostrom was strong;  they had a remarkable personal and intellectual partnership.  Please join me in mourning this wonderful person and great scholar and offering our sympathy to Vincent and to the large international community of friends and scholars who must go on without her.