Margaret A. McKean

Margaret A. McKean

Professor Emeritus in the Department of Politcal Science

Primary Appointment

Department of Political Science

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.

In The News


Haglund, MM. "Comments." Neurosurgery 72 (June 1, 2013).

McKean, MA. ""Common-Pool Resources in the Context of Japanese History"." World Wide Business Review 5, no. 1 (2003): 132-159. (Academic Article)

McKean, MA, and Scheiner, E. ""Japan's New Electoral System: La plus ça change.."." Electoral Studies 19, no. 4 (December 2000): 447-477. (Academic Article)

McKean, MA. ""Old Voices for New Commons"." Common Property Resource Digest 39 (October 1996). (Academic Article)

Ostrom, MAMWE. ""Common Property Regimes in the Forest: Just a Relic from the Past?"." Unasylva (Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations) 46, no. 180 (January 1995): 3-15. (Academic Article)

Recent Grants

Contact Information

Box 90204
Durham, NC 27708-0204
140 Science Drive, 210G Gross Hall, Box 90204
Durham, NC 27708


Ph.D., University of California at Berkeley (1974)