More than forty years ago, Elinor Ostrom began her adventures with the police. In order to combat the conventional view that “bigger means better,” Ostrom pioneered a field work-based framework for measuring police services that utilized consumer surveys and thereby created a community-centered model of analysis for public services. In this paper, the authors contend that although Ostrom’s career demonstrated the importance of employing multiple methods, her most enduring contributions and legacy came from on-the-ground research. Her case studies and field work proved to be necessary for examining complex systems beyond the state-market dichotomy, and these methods of analysis should be defended as critical for inquiry into the variety of institutional arrangements.
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