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J. Stephen Lansing

J. Stephen Lansing

Santa Fe Institute
Fellow, 2021-22
Fellow, 2000-01 Study #49

At CASBS J. Stephen Lansing will investigate possible roadmaps for managing the global commons, pursuing the question posed by Elinor Ostrom following her 2009 Nobel Memorial prize, “Will Lessons from Small Scale Social Dilemmas Scale Up?” While the global commons are almost entirely unmanaged, the management of local common pool resources is a problem that has often been solved by human communities. But case studies cite many different social and environmental factors affecting success. For Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth 2.0, Lansing will investigate the sources of the steering capacity of the fragile institutions that manage the commons, drawing from his ongoing research on Balinese water temples and the “message sticks” of nomadic hunter-gatherers in Borneo.

Lansing is an anthropologist whose most recent book is Islands of Order (Princeton University Press, 2019), which investigates the causes of discontinuous social change in the islands of the Malay archipelago. In a nonlinear world stable equilibria – like persistent language communities or cultural practices – appear as islands in a sea of change. He is an external professor at the Complexity Science Hub Vienna and the Santa Fe Institute; a visiting scholar at the Hoffman Global Institute at INSEAD Singapore, and emeritus professor of anthropology at the University of Arizona. He was a fellow at CASBS in 2000-01. For more, please visit: and

Tyler Journal Articles

Scarborough, Vernon L., Schoenfelder, John W., Lansing, J Stephen. 2000. "Ancient water management and landscape transformation at Sebatu, Bali." Bulletin of the Indo-Pacific Prehistory Association 20: 79-92.
Lansing, J.Stephen., Kremer, James N., Gerhart, Vanda., Kremer, Patricia., Arthawiguna, Alit., Putu Surata, Sang Kaler., Suprapto., Suryawan, Ida Bagus., Arsana, I.Gusti., Scarborough, Vernon L., Schoenfelder, John., Mikita, Kimberly. 2001. "Volcanic fertilization of Balinese rice paddies." Ecological Economics 38(3): 383-390.
Lansing, J Stephen. 2003. "Complex Adaptive Systems." Annual Reviews. Annual Review of Anthropology 32(1): 183-204.