†Dr. James M. Acheson

James Acheson

Jim Acheson, Research Professor of Anthropology, James (“Jim”) Michael Acheson, age 84, of Portland, Maine passed away unexpectedly at Maine Medical Center on Tuesday, June 28, 2022. Jim was a faculty member at the University of Maine from 1968-2013 whose work transcended disciplinary boundaries, including anthropology, economics, biology, public policy, and natural resource management.

A press release with more information has been issued by UMaine.

Research Professor of Anthropology

Ph.D., University of Rochester, 1970

Professional Interests:

My field of study is economic anthropology. I have done substantial field research in the Purepecha speaking area of the State of Michoacan, Mexico and in fishing communities along the coast of Maine. My Mexican work has been concerned with the social and cultural aspects of economic development and modernization. My Maine fisheries research has focused on social science aspects of fisheries management. In the past 10 years, I have done work on the common property problem; and more recently on applying the principles of institutional economics to a variety of problems in anthropology, including the organization of household firms, fish markets in New England, and the development of local level institutions to manage resources and promote economic change.

Representative Publications:

2011.”The Evolution of the Maine Lobster V-Notch Practice: Cooperation in a Prisoner’s Dilemma Game.” (Roy Gardner, second author). Ecology and Society 16, Article #41. (This is an electronic journal).

2011.”Coming Up Empty: Management Failure of the New England Groundfishery” (Roy Gardner, second author). MAST (Maritime Studies) 10(1); 57-86.

2010.”The Evolution of Rules and Norms in the Maine Lobster Industry.” (Roy Gardner, second author). Ocean and Coastal Management 53: 524-534.

2010 “Cooperation and the Development of Conservation Law: The Case of the Maine Lobster Industry.” In Cooperation, Hierarchy, and Social Life. Ed. Robert Marshall. Pp. 259-277. New York: Altamira Press.

2010 “Factions, Models and Resource Regulation: Prospects for Lowering the Maine Lobster Trap Limit”. (Ann Acheson, second author). Human Ecology 38(5): 587-598 .

2010 “Maine Forest Land: Private Property and Hunting Commons.” (Julianna Acheson, second author) International Journal of the Commons 4 (1) .

2009 “Inheritance, Land Sales and the Future of Maine’s Forests”. (Thomas Doak, second author). Ecological Anthropology 13(1): 42-56.

2008 “Causes of Deforestation: The Maine Case.” (Jon McCloskey, second author) Human Ecology 36: 909-922. [To be republished in Human Ecology: Contemporary Theory and Practice, Robert Bates, Editor.

2008 “Maine: On the Cusp of the Forest Transition.” Human Organization 67(2): 125-136.

2007 “Strategic Interaction and the Emergence of Formal Conservation Laws for the Maine Lobster Industry.” In, Nature’s Past. Paolo Squatriti, ed., pp 67-98. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

2006 “Institutional Failure in Resource Management.” Annual Reviews in Anthropology Vol 35, 117-134. William Durham, ed. Palo Alto, CA: Annual Reviews.

2006 “Lobster and Groundfish Management in the Gulf of Maine: A Rational Choice Perspective.” Human Organization 65(3): 240-252.

2005 “Developing Rules to Manage Fisheries: A Cross Cultural Perspective.” In, Marine Conservation Biology. Elliott Norse and Larry Crowder, eds. pp.351-361. Washington D.C.: Island Press

2005 “Spatial Strategies and Territoriality in the Maine Lobster Industry.” (Roy Gardner, second author). Rationality and Society 17(3): 309-341.

2004 “Strategies, Conflict and the Emergence of Territoriality: The Case of the Maine Lobster Industry.” (Roy Gardner second author). American Anthropologist 106(2): 296-307.

2001 “Confounding the Goals of Management: The Response of Maine Lobstermen to a Trap Limit.” North American Journal of Fisheries Management 21: 136-148.

2001 “The Anatomy of the Maine Lobster Co-Management Law.” (Laura Taylor, second author). Society and Natural Resources .

2001 “Transaction Cost Economics: Problems and Possibilities.” In: Theory in Economic Anthropology, Jean Ensminger, ed. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.

2000 “Distribution, Fights, Coordination Games and Lobster Management.” (with Jack Knight, second author). Comparative Studies in Society and History 42(1): 209-238.

2000 “Clearcutting Maine: Implications for the Theory of Common Property Resources.” Human Ecology 28(2): 145-169.

1998 “Lobster Trap Limits: A Solution to a Communal Action Dilemma.” Human Organization 17(1): 43-52.

1996 “Order Out of Chaos: The Case for Parametric Fisheries Management.” (with James A. Wilson, second author) American Anthropologist 98(3): 579-594. (Reprinted in Bulletin de Psychologie, Paris 432: 691-708, with the title “L’ordre sorti du chaos: arguments en faveur d’une gestion parametrique des pecheries.”)

1996 “Household Organization and Budget Structures in a Purepecha Pueblo.” American Ethnologist 23(2):331-351.

1994 “Welcome to Nobel County: A Review of Institutional Economics.” In, Anthropology and Institutional Economics. pp. 3-42. James Acheson, ed. pp. 3-42. Lanham, MD: University Press of America.

1989 “Management of Common Property Resources.” In, Economic Anthropology. Stuart Plattner, ed. pp. 351-378. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press.

1985 “The Maine Lobster Market: Between Market and Hierarchy.” Journal of Law, Economics and Organization 1(2) 385-398.

1981 “Anthropology of Fishing.” Annual Review of Anthropology Vol. 10, pp. 275-315. Palo Alto, CA: Annual Reviews.

1975 “The Lobster Fiefs: Economic and Ecological Effects of Territoriality in the Maine Lobster Industry: Human Ecology 3(3): 183-207.

1972 “Limited Good’ or Limited Goods?: Response to Economic Opportunity in a Tarascan Pueblo.” American Anthropologist 74(5): 1152-1169. October 1972.


Capturing the Commons: Devising Institutions to Manage the Maine Lobster Industry. University Press of New England, Hanover, N.H., 2003. 264 pp.

Anthropology and Institutional Economics (Ed.). Lanham, MD: University Press of America,1994. 422 pp.

The Lobster Gangs of Maine, Durham, N.H.: University Press of New England, 1988. 181 pp.


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