Last fall the Law and Economics Center at GMU held a conference on the contributions of Elinor Ostrom. I was one of the lecturers, and I greatly enjoy talking about the contributions to political and economic analysis of the Ostroms and even more so in attempting to apply their work to tackle problems of a conceptual and empirical nature.
The current director of the Ostrom workshop, Lee Alston, is an accomplished economic historian and political economist in his own right. This video clip describes what he is trying to do with the Workshop.
The critical ideas to keep in mind in reading the Ostroms is that we are not prisoners' caught in dilemmas, but instead human beings capable through our choices of improving our situation. And, that the devil in the analysis is always in the institutional details. Look at these two passages from Elinor's classic work Governing the Commons.