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Tanner Lectures on Human Values: Lecture II

Thu February 17th 2011, 5:30pm
Event Sponsor
McCoy Family Center for Ethics in Society and the Office of the President
Gunn-SIEPR Building, 366 Galvez Street, Stanford, CA
Koret-Taube Conference Room 130
Tanner Lectures on Human Values: Lecture II

Elinor Ostrom is the Arthur F. Bentley Professor of Professor of Political Science at Indiana University. She is also the Founding Director of the Center for the Study of Institutional Diversity at Arizona State University. Ostrom is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society. She is the recipient of many distinguished awards and has authored (and/or co-authored) numerous books including Trust and Reciprocity: Interdisciplinary Lessons from Experimental Research (2003); The Commons in the New Millennium: Challenges and Adaptations (2003); The Samaritan’s Dilemma: The Political Economy of Development Aid (2005); Understanding Institutional Diversity (2005); and Understanding Knowledge as a Commons: From Theory to Practice (2007).

Note: The Tanner Lecture Series consists of two lectures and two discussion seminars. The first lecture will take place on February 17, 5:30-7:00pm. The discussion seminars will take place on February 17 & February 18, 10:00am-12:00pm.

Abstract: A century ago, Katharine Coman wrote an article on “Some Unsettled Problems of Irrigation” (Coman, 1911). Coman was interested in diverse efforts to solve problems of irrigation management in the American West given the entirely different ecological conditions of that area. She wrote an extended description of what was happening with many irrigation systems, but it is hard to accumulate an understanding from the extended descriptive research.

Coman analyzed  “the resource system of the American plains” that underlie all of the irrigation systems she described and focused on the diverse governance systems involved. Her history illustrates the general lesson that simply imposing government property or private property on an irrigation system does not guarantee results.

Successful collective action depends on many factors. Among the most important is whether those involved can gain sufficient knowledge about a complex system and gain the trust of others in this challenging environment. The Social-Ecological Systems framework initially presented by Ostrom (2007; 2009) provides an initial conceptual language for comparing complex systems and addressing which variables may make a difference.

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