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Margaret A. McKean, Professor Emerita

Margaret A. McKean
Contact Info:
On leave 2005-2006
Office Location:  140 Science Drive, 210G Gross Hall, Box 90204, Durham, NC 27708
Office Phone:  (919) 660-4300
Email Address:  


Ph.D., University of California - Berkeley, 1974
M.A., Harvard University, 1968
B.A., University of California at Berkeley, 1967

Comparative Politics
Political Economy
Political Institutions
Research Interests: Japan, Pacific Basin, and Property Rights

Professor of Political Science and Research Professor of Environmental Policy in the Nicholas School, studies political institutions, particularly electoral arrangements and property rights, and is interested in applying theories of cooperation to the management of common-pool goods like environmental resources. One stream of her work concerns policymaking and elections in Japan, and her other work on the commons has examined traditional arrangements used in Japan to foster cooperation in limiting use to sustainable levels. Beyond Japan, she is also interested in diagnosing not just how but also why people use joint arrangements to manage collective goods, and in extracting lessons from the existing repertoire of experience with environmental cooperation and common-property regimes to inform efforts to address common-pool resource problems in contemporary settings, on more complex collective goods, and at larger scales. She was a member of the National Academy of Sciences Panel on Common Property from 1982 to 1987 where she helped to organized the Annapolis conference on Common Property (1985) and to build the initial Common Property network. Along with Elinor Ostrom, Fikret Berkes, David Feeny, and others, McKean co-founded the International Association for the Study of Common Property in 1989. She organized the first global meeting of the IASCP at Duke in 1990 as well as the recent global conference of IASC held on the Mount Fuji commons in Japan in 2013. She also served as fifth president of the IASCP in 1995-1996. She is currently working on three book-length manuscripts: Cooperation on the Japanese Commons, The Common Good in Uncommonly Bad Times: Japan's Experience with Collective Choice under Scarcity, and Property Rights for a Small Planet. She is also involved with European and Japanese colleagues in several collaborative projects: Revivals of the Commons (on contemporary applications of common-property regimes to new environmental issues in Japan), a special issue of the International Journal of the Commons on legal innovations that bring traditional commons into contemporary uses in post industrial economies, and a long-term project using the very rich archival material available on legal disputes over rights on the commons in Japan to analyze sources of legal success and of the development of rights-consciousness in citizens.

Curriculum Vitae
Representative Publications   (More Publications)

  1. M.A. McKean, The Common Good in Bad Times: Japan's Experience with Collective Choice under Scarcity (in progress) .
  2. M.A. McKean, "Designing New Common Property Regimes for New Landscape Futures", in Landscape Future, edited by David Brunckhorst and David Mouat (2000), Armidale, New South Wales: University of New England, Instittute for Bioregional Resource Management .
  3. McKean, MA, "Common-Pool Resources in the Context of Japanese History", World Wide Business Review, vol. 5 no. 1 (2003), pp. 132-159 .
  4. McKean, MA; Scheiner, E, "Japan's New Electoral System: La plus ça change...", Electoral Studies, vol. 19 no. 4 (December, 2000), pp. 447-477 .
  5. People and Forests: Communities, Institutions, and Governance, edited by Margaret McKean, Clark Gibson and Elinor Ostrom (2000), Cambridge: MIT Press .
  6. M.A. McKean, "Rational Choice Analysis and Area Studies: Enemies or Partners?", in Beyond the Area Studies Wars: Toward a New International Studies, edited by Neil Waters (2000), pp. 29-63, University Press of New England .
  7. M.A. McKean, Clark Gibson and Elinor Ostrom, "Explaining Deforestation: The Role of Local Institutions", in People and Forests: Communities, Institutions, and Governance (2000), pp. 1-26, Cambridge: MIT Press .
  8. Making the Commons Work: Theory, Practice, and Policy, edited by Daniel Bromley, David Feeny, Margaret A. McKean, Pauline Peters, Jere Gilles, Ronald Oakerson, C. Ford Range, and James Thomson (1992), San Francisco: Institute of Contemporary Studies .
  9. "Common Property: What is It, What is it Good For, and What Makes it Work?", in People and Forests: Communities, Institutions, and Governance, edited by M.A. McKean, Clark Gibson and Elinor Ostrom (2000), pp. 27-55, Cambridge: MIT Press .
  10. M.A. McKean, Clark Gibson and Elinor Ostrom, "Conclusion," Chapter 9, in People and Forests: Communities, Institutions, and Governance (2000), pp. 227-242, Cambridge: MIT Press .

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