Unique Spring 2014 Course Offering That Crosses Disciplines


E400/V450 MW 9:30–10:45 a.m., Tocqueville Room, Ostrom Workshop, 513 N. Park Ave.

In 2009, Indiana University’s Elinor “Lin” Ostrom was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. Now, for the first time, undergraduate honors students from the Hutton Honors College, SPEA, and other social science departments can enroll in a seminar structured around Lin’s most important contributions to understanding (and sometimes even solving) social and environmental problems. The seminar in “Rules, Games, and Society” will teach students about social and ecological problems that can only be avoided (or reduced) by collective (or group) action.

The course will be taught at The Vincent and Elinor Ostrom Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis by two of Lin’s close collaborators, Dan Cole (Law, SPEA) and Burney Fischer (SPEA), and structured around a new textbook authored by two more of her close collaborators, Marty Anderies and Marco Janssen. Their book, Sustaining the Commons, is freely available on the Internet under a Creative Commons license. The text will be supplemented with readings from some of Lin’s own writings.

Topics covered in the course include: (1) the varied nature of resource problems; (2) the structure of social institutions and organizations; (3) Lin’s two frameworks for analyzing social interactions over natural resources—the Institutional Analysis and Development (IAD) framework and the Social-Ecological System (SES) framework; (4) the theory of games and its potential for contributing to our understanding of social (or “collective-action”) problems; (5) case studies in the management of water, forests, and other resources, and the derivation of “design principles” for successful management regimes from those case studies; (6) laboratory experiments as a method for investigating individual and social decision making; (7) the varied nature of social rules and norms for managing resources; and (8) applications of Lin’s frameworks and methods to various problems ranging from intellectual property to public health and sports.

This 3-credit course will be taught via a combination of lectures, guest lectures by other experts, and active discussion. Students will be split into two groups. Each week, students in one of the groups will each prepare and post memos (1–2 pages), discussing, analyzing, and raising questions about that week’s readings. Sometime around the middle of the semester, students will decide on paper topics, with final papers to be turned in before the semester ends with the Workshop’s traditional “mini-conference,” at which student papers are presented and discussed by faculty and advanced graduate students. Grades will be determined by the combination of biweekly memos, class attendance and participation, and the final paper.

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