Proceedings of the workshop on future directions for common property
theory and research: Rutgers University New Jersey
Bonnie J. McCay and Barbara Jones (Eds.)
Ecopolicy Center for Agricultural, Environmental and Resource Issues, New
Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station, New Jersey
Keywords: resources, resource management, Fisheries, common property,
economic values, New Jersey, USA.
The Common Property Workshop at Rutgers was co-hosted by the Eco-policy
Center for Agricultural, Environmental, and Resource Issues and the
International Association for the Study of Common Property, IASCP, which held
its Executive Board meeting the next day (March 1st). Bonnie McCay, Associate
Director of the Eco-policy Center and Professor in the Department of Human
Ecology at Rutgers University, organized and chaired the workshop. In her
introductory remarks she said, "We couldn't pass up this opportunity to bring
together people who are doing the most innovative thinking about the
problems of dealing with common resources, as well as the problems of
property rights and property rights as they relate to and use of management of
natural resources." She introduced members of the Executive Board of IASCP
and other participants. Then Bob Tucker, director of the Eco-policy welcomed
the group on behalf of Rutgers University. He explained the Eco-policy Center,
which "looks at resource issues from an environmental point of view, ecological
point of view and also an economic point of view. We're looking at
environmental issues at agricultural issues, issues of land use, and so the idea
for looking and studying common property is very appropriate for the center.
We're also particularly proud to have Bonnie as the President-elect of the
International Association of the Study of Common Property. So I think it is
particularly appropriate that you are all here this afternoon -welcome."
"Common Property Regimes: Moving From Inside to Outside"
Margaret McKean, Political Science, Duke University, and past-president of
When we were thinking about putting this together I thought I wanted to speak
about how I see the history of this field. Of course, people have been studying
common pool resources and property rights on common pool resources and
social behavior and institutions having to do with how people use natural
resources for a long time. But, I think the systematic attempt to pool findings
from many disciplines and many areas and many resource types perhaps is only
a dozen or more years old. It seems to me we can say a few things about what
we've concentrated on to date and I had a few thoughts on what our next
research thoughts should be. So far its been natural to examine the insides of
common property arrangements and the behavior of people who use a single
resource. So we've looked at the relationships between people who use their
resources and among the people who are using the same resource. We've
focused a lot on the internal arrangement of these mechanisms. We've looked
at rules for use, techniques of cooperation, looked at mechanism by which
people enforce prohibitions against cheating in order to enforce mutual
restraint and capping aggregate levels of use and stress on common pool
resources. I get questions about what we ought to be looking at next and I had
four categories which I thought we should try and push our research interests.
One thing I am constantly asked is: well its all very good and well to know how
these things work and what the characteristics of these systems are that have
established successful working arrangements, but we don't know where they
came from. How did it get rolling? So one project would be to push our
research in the direction of how these things start. I see three ways to do this
and I of course advocate doing this. But I think there are many conditions and
situations in the world where we probably need to create common property
regimes that don't now exist-resources under stress, and so on. So therefore we
need to know something about how to create them when they aren't there to
start with. One subcategory under common property regime origins would be to
study the evolution, the original evolution of the historical long lasting
systems, that is, systems that have lasted for several centuries in many parts of
the world. Another helpful area for exploring origins I think, would be
laboratory experiments that focus on manipulating the variables that you would
manipulate in the creation of regimes and then of course, another one is to pay
very close attention to the natural experiments we conduct upon ourselves all
the time. When you try and create new systems, I'm thinking particularly when
you work in fisheries and the formation of new fishery organizations; you begin
to make general statements about which one's work and which ones don't.
There are three other areas for future research, all looking outside CPR
systems. We've focused very closely so far on what makes them work, what
internal features of common property arrangements make them work. We
haven't paid enough attention to the relationships between successful systems
and their surroundings. I think of three features of the surroundings. First,
would be the relationships with government; all the work on co-management is
really an effort to explore that. But I would include the studies of the
legalization of common property rights-studies of changes of government
recognition, levels of government recognition and government acknowledgment
of common property rights. Second would be the relationship between CPR and
commerce. The economic context of successful arrangements presents an
interesting dichotomy across resources. Those of us who have studied common
property arrangements on land frequently encounter the assertion that
commerce is deaf- the arrival of the market economy, the arrival of
commercialization, the commercialization of commodities that are extracted
begin to erode the features of cooperation that made those systems work for a
long time. Thus commercialization brings pursalization to landed commons. We
encounter this statement; I actually caught myself writing it myself, it is pretty
unexamined. It has not been very well tested and if you move over to fisheries
there are a lot of people who study the common property arrangements on
landed resources who suggest banning the sale of products extracted from the
commons. What they should do is let people live subsistence lives with
products from the commons, but not sell for themselves because then
everything goes to pieces. I think if you proposed that to the people in the
world who do fishing they would wonder what planet are you from. Nobody
would suggest that the thing for successful fishers to do is to stop selling fish.
Fish are a commodity. There wouldn't be much fishing if the only people who
ate fish were the ones who caught them. It's odd to me that we haven't
examined the relationship between healthy property relations in a commercial
context. We have to face the facts that a lot of the products we extract from
the commons are of commercial interest. We want these products to integrate
us with a cash economy. Some of these products have no value if we can't sell
them. They are no force for a subsistence style of living so there is something
very wrong with our habit of believing, at least those of us who study land
economy, that commercialization is very dangerous or that commercialization
is really tricky and very fragile. Maybe later I will give you an analogy that
demonstrates how certain bad statistical analysis can lead you to the wrong
conclusions. That I think might be responsible for these conclusions on the part
of us who study landed economies and commercialization. It seems to me the
third thing or third feature of the outside worth thinking about is the
relationship with the ecological setting. That isn't as silly as it sounds-of course
common property regimes on common pool resources are found in ecological
settings where we have common pool resources - that is true by definition, so
what more is there to know. I don't have that in mind. I am really thinking
about the fact that over the course of history we have seen common property
arrangements come and go and move around. We have also seen people
choosing to use common property regimes for some resources in certain
situations and then choosing to use individual property arrangements for other
resources that they have or other goods that they produce. People apparently
have historically made choices, they might have even been intelligent choices
about which kinds of resources to manage as common property resources and
which kinds of resources to parcel up to individuals. With the crowded planet
we have today, we want to figure out if there any places where there are
resources or situations where we should be turning away from making common
property arrangements. We should really know the ecological conditions that
make common property arrangements the efficient choice today. It may be
that historically what made common property resources efficient was not
always the ecological setting. It may have been other things having to do with
the availability of labor, economies of scale and enforcement costs or the non-
availability of administrative efforts from the outside. But it may still be
ecological conditions which would help us make intelligent choices about where
to place common property regimes or how to best handle resources in a
community. So I think these are the four areas I would single out as good
targets for research agendas. In the future, we need to look more at origins,
look more at relationships with the legal and government contexts, to look
hard at some of our hypothesis of commercialization and commercial context
and to look carefully at how people have chosen where to put their common
property regimes. We're perfectly familiar with different kinds of
arrangements, like choices of when to use common property resources.
"What Can Agents Do? Reflections on Post-Hardin Commons Discourse"
Peter J. Taylor, Visiting Scholar, Center for Critical Analysis of Contemporary
Culture, Rutgers University.
What can agents do? For common property researchers (CPRers) there is an
obvious meaning to this question: Can individuals overcome their self-interest?
Can they come together to build institutions for managing a resource held in
common? Through my joint involvement in the Environmental Studies and
Science and Technology Studies (STS), I ask what agents can do of two other
kinds of agents, namely, CPRers, and STSers who interpret and contextualize
science. I am particularly concerned with the influence of CPRers on the socio-
environmental situations they study, and with STSers, such as myself, who hope
their work can influence the researchers they study. What each of these kinds
of agents can do are open questions. I am in a very early stage of this this
inquiry. In the talk I laid out a set of "entry points" or "angles of illumination,"
which I refered to as: examining the broad social context; substituting the local
for the exotic; exploring the cross-reinforcement of ideas about psychology,
methods used, and theories of agency and social structure/dness; inverting the
sequence in scientific research of simple to complex; examining intersecting
processes instead of bounded systems; and deprivileging special cases. Using
those angles of illumination and learning from responses by CPRers to my STS
interpretations, I hope to expose more of the complex pragmatic
considerations governing specific research and researchers. A proposed
contribution to CPR Digest and a talk at the Vancouver IASCP meetings should
further my interactions with CPRers.
Taylor, P. J. (1992). "Re/constructing socio-ecologies: System dynamics
modeling of nomadic pastoralists in sub-Saharan Africa," in A. Clarke and J.
Fujimura (Eds.), The Right Tools for the Job: At Work in Twentieth-Century Life
Sciences. Pawnceton: Princeton University Press, 115-148.
Taylor, P. J. (1997). "Appearances notwithstanding, we are all doing something
like political ecology." Social Epistemology, in press.
Taylor, P. J. and R. García-Barrios (1995). "The social analysis of ecological
change: From systems to intersecting processes." Social Science Information
Discussion of McKean and Taylor presentations:
McCay: McKean's presentation captured an important new direction in common
property work, which has been dominated to this point by questions of internal
design as highlighted in Ostrom's work "Governing the Commons." Her focus on
"the outside" dovetails with others who are taking political economy
perspectives that emphasize the bigger picture- the economic situation, the
political situation and so on as they affect common property regimes.
Taylor: Upon the point of contrasts in research agendas, there is of course the
question of whether reflections based upon multiple angles are very helpful.
Some of the best scientists have always been very simple minded and they
don't ask many questions about where we come from or why it does that....
McKean: I have two things to say. I was fascinated with your juxtaposition of
the development of the field right alongside a world wide drive for
decentralization, privatization, individualization, not to mention the fall of
communism which means to many people never do anything collective again.
So I have no idea if people who are interested in common property are
interested because they are fighting world trends or if it's just coincidence. It's
like two halves of a river running in opposite directions.
Unknown: The question of why Hardin's idea had such an affinity is extremely
important. I would approach that question by looking at higher institutions. I
think we shall find part of the answer in what deeply ingrained beliefs about
property are, from everyday experiences that are so deeply ingrained that you
don't think about it. They have disappeared from our conscious minds, and
when Hardin speaks to us he speaks to our unconscious beliefs about what
property is. ...
Brad Walters (graduate student, Rutgers Ecology & Evolution): Hardin's
popularity, I hate to admit it, has a lot to do with how accurately it models
reality. We're continuously viewing evidence of commons tragedies, be they
litter on the side of the road, or whatever. ....I agree that there is this social
political stuff that is very complex and needs to be pulled apart and that, but
there is this reality...the empirically oriented and the "social/critical types" are
in opposite camps?
Taylor: One of the tenets of science in science and technology studies is that
empirical accuracy is never sufficient to account for something's acceptance.
So that you are always looking for other things and sometimes that search for
other things is as saying empirical accuracy is not at all relevant. In this case
unfortunately I want to say that there I am one of those last camps because I
think there are and never have been —I am going to overstate it — tragedies of
the commons. So I am opposed to you there. In terms of Hardin's model, it has
to do with that "complex/ simple" argument I made.
Walters: Is what you are saying that there have never been any social commons
Taylor: No, but with the perspective of science studies, you would ask why is it
that other people could go in and see the world and say this is tragedy of the
commons? In other words, it's not just taking it subjectively. It's saying what is
it these people bring you see litter as a tragedy of the commons and others do
Erling Berge (IASCP): on the importance of language, Hardin using "commons"
to mean open access, but the English law of property using "commons" very
McKean: Hardin has great appeal because he is making some observations that
really do occur to people. You're right with your objections for when I talk
about him in class I worry about his spurious correlations. He presents the
problem as one where the only thing wrong with common resource use is
commonness or too many people, versus the possibility that he got the main
causal variable wrong...
Evelyn Pinkerton (IASCP): Of course Hardin is right because our institutions
are set up in a way that makes what he says to be true. The common property
literature makes us see that there are institutions that are set up differently.
Frank Popper, Political Science & Urban Studies, Rutgers U.: I see Hardin as
an ecological fable. When we leave here we should have a better
understanding of it. It's a real interesting story and let it go at that.
Paige West, Graduate Student, Anthropology, Rutgers U.: There are certain
socio-political economic conditions that were arising at the time Hardin wrote
this that went along with the globalization of capital. Maybe one reason Hardin
was successful is it spoke to people who wanted to see capital as natural.... I
use Hardin in just about all my classes too and find that we really want to
believe it. Even though I teach about it critically, the students still come to
class and say well look this is what Hardin said.
Taylor: I feel I need to say something about why I don't believe in the
commons. It's not any of the things being said so far. Hardin can be read as
building on the conceptual ideological model of the state as being a constraint
on individuals and on individual transactions. In this pervasive model there is
no middle ground for social structure upon unequal power that facilitates the
social life as well as constrains it. As a consequence there is no sense of the
messy politics involved in a transition from the way Hardin thinks things are to
what he'd like them to be. With respect to transitional psychology this liberal
model of the individual as the source of all inequality and the rationality of
change and resistance to change says something about the structuredness and
the inequality. I think it is truer in many cases and that is why I don't think the
tragedy of the commons occurs; it doesn't have those features. ....the reason
we read Hardin back then is to examine how many of those kind of assumptions
are still with us today...
"New and Not-So-New Directions in the Use of the Commons: Co-
Fikret Berkes, Natural Resource Institute, University of Manitoba; President,
Many co-management (joint management, collaborative management)
initiatives are in progress in the areas of fisheries, wildlife, protected areas,
forests and other resources. These initiatives have a common reason for their
existence. Top-down resource management by centralized government
agencies has not been working well, and purely local-level management is
often ineffective in the complex world of multiple stakeholders. As a rapidly
developing field of study, there is a substantial accumulation of empirical
material on co-management, yet the field is weak in terms of theory
development. Many authors agree that the theoretical basis of co-management
may be found in common property research. It is not clear; however, how the
theory developed in the broader area of commons may be applicable to co-
Development of the idea of co-management can be traced to a number of
different resource areas:
* Fisheries First Canadian co-management, Kearney, 1984 (LeBlanc 1978
speech); Norway: Jentoft, 1985; Pinkerton book 1989 example: Fisheries Co-
Management project (SE Asia, Africa)
* Parks and protected areas World Conservation Strategy (1980); Caring for the
Earth (1991); Integrated Conservation-Development Projects ex. Mt Elgon Nat
Pk, Uganda; Mafia Is Marine Pk, Tanzania
* Forests Joint forest management, W. Bengal, India 1972; Nepal * Wildlife
examples: CAMPFIRE project in Zimbabwe; IIED
* Other water (zanjera, Philippines); wastelands (India, China); aboriginal land
claims (Canada, Australia, New Zealand)
The reason for development of co-management in these various areas has to do
with the basic dilemma: * Top-down resource management by centralized
government agencies not working well, * Local-level, community based
management is often ineffective and limited because of outsider interference,
multiple interests, centralized management, interjurisdictional problems.
The co-management solution makes two basic assumptions: * Local people must
have a stake in conservation and management, and * Partnership of
government agencies and local communities and resource users is essential.
What is 'co-management'? * A number of terms are used interchangeably:
Cooperative management/collaborative management/joint
management/participatory management/multi-stakeholder management * the
general function of co-management is to encourage partnerships; provide local
incentives for sustainable use; share power and responsibility for resource
management and conservation. * Various definitions:
McCay and Acheson (1987:32): (referring to community-led initiatives) "co-
management signifies their political claim to the right to share management
power and responsibility with the state."
Murphree (1989:418): "co-management is a broad concept that covers an
assortment of managerial arrangements."
Berkes et al. (1991): "the sharing of power and responsibility between the
government and local resource users."
West and Brechin (1991:25): "the substantial sharing of protected areas
management responsibilities and authority among government officials and
IUCN (World Conservation Congress 1996): "a partnership in which
governmental agencies, local communities and resource users, non-
governmental organizations and other stakeholders share, as appropriate to
each context, the authority and responsibility for the management of a specific
territory or a set of resources."
Evaluating the degree of participation has often been based on the Arnstein
'ladder of public participation'. Variations include:
* Berkes et al. 1991; Berkes 1994
* McCay 1993; 1995
* Pinkerton 1994
* Pomeroy 1995 * Sen and Raakjaer Nielson 1996
When is co-management feasible?
* Co-management is desirable and there is a need, and
* Devolution of management power is possible and feasible,
Three key questions seem to define successful co-management:
1. Are there appropriate institutions, both local and governmental?
2. Is there trust between the actors?
3. Is there legal protection of local rights?
More work is needed in understanding these and other possible key conditions
for successful co-management, including economic ones.
Challenges ahead: Developing theory for co-management
1. Analysis of experience with the process
* Problem recognition
* negotiating and consensus-building
* developing an agreement
* implementing and monitoring the agreement
2. Analysis of experience with agreements
* Structure and content of existing agreements
* Typology of agreements
* Towards a generic agreement model (?)
3. Analysis of capacity-building requirements
* Supportive policies and legislation
* Users: institution-building
* Managers: making devolution attractive
Research strategy and agenda may include:
* Reasons for successes and failures;
* Key conditions for feasibility;
* Appropriate techniques to facilitate co-mgmt;
* Cross-cultural approaches and methods;
* Adaptive management' (feedback learning);
* Designing supportive policies and legislation
Arnstein, S. 1969. A Ladder of Citizen Participation. Journal of American
Institute of Planners 4: 216-224.
Berkes, F., George, P. and Preston, R.J. 1991. Co-management. Alternatives
Berkes, F. 1994. Co-management: Bridging the Two solitudes. Northern
Perspectives 22 (2-3): 18-20.
Borrini-Feyerabend, G. 1996. Collaborative Management of Protected Areas:
Tailoring the Approach to the Context. Gland: International Conservation
IIED 1994. Whose Eden? An Overview of Community Approaches to Wildlife
Managment. London: International Institute for Environment and Development.
Jentoft, S. 1985 Models of Fishery Development. The Cooperative Approach.
Marine Policy 9: 322-331.
Kearney, John. The Transformation of the Bay of Fundy Herring Fisheries 1976-
1978: An Experiment in Fishermen-Government Co-management. In: Atlantic
Fisheries and Coastal Communities: Fisheries Decision-Making Case Studies (C.
Lamson and A.J. Hanson, eds.) Halifax: Dalhousie University Ocean Studies
Programme, pp. 165-203.
McCay, B. J. 1995. Common and Private Concerns. Advances in Human Ecology
McCay, B. J. and Acheson, J. M., editors 1987. The Question of the Commons:
the Culture and Ecology of Communal Resources. Tuscon: The University of
Murphree, M. 1989.
Pinkerton, E. editor 1989. Co-Operative Management of Local Fisheries.
Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press.
Pinkerton, E. 1994. Summary and Conclusions. In: Folk Management in the
Wolrd's Fisheries (C.L. Dyer and J.R. McGoodwin, eds.) Niwot: University Press
of Colorado, pp. 317-337.
Poffenburger, M. and McGean, B., editors 1996. Village Voices, Forest Choices:
Joint Forest Management in India. Delhi: Oxford University Press.
Pomeroy, R.S. 1995. Community Based and Co-management Institutions for
Sustainable Coastal Fisheries Management in Southeat Asia. Ocean & Coastal
Sen, S. and Raakjaer Nielson, J. 1996. Fisheries Co-management: A
comparative Analysis. Marine Policy 20: 405-418.
West, P.C. and Brechin, S. R., editors 1991. Resident Peoples and National
Parks. Tuscon: University of Arizona Press.
"Beyond Rational Choice: Implications of a Broadened Institutional Analysis
for Fisheries Management"
Svein Jentoft, Institute of Social Science, University of Tromso, Norway,
Visiting Professor, Rutgers University
My contribution is drawn from a draft paper co-authored with Bonnie McCay
and Doug Wilson.* with only ten minutes I can only give you the main
argument, which, I hope, will be of relevance to the theme of this workshop.
The paper attempts to bring out some of the implicit assumptions in fisheries
resource management, particularly those that refer to the nature of
institutions, what institutions are, what they do, and what can be expected
from them. Needless to say, these assumptions determine how we arrive at our
hypotheses and design our research projects. They also determine what we
perceive to be within reach of management systems, what we think can be
accomplished in practice, what we can realistically hope to gain. Social
scientists use to say that the problems of fisheries management are basically
social and institutional, not technical or biological. Therefore, our subject
should be head on to the core issue in fisheries management.
Although the paper has a fisheries co-management focus, our concerns are also
more general. We argue that definitions of institutions underpinning much of
common-property research are too confined. We say that there are more to
institutions than rules, regulations and transaction costs. When Douglass North
contends that "institutions are simply the rules of the game", we think it is too
simplistic. Rather, we prefer a definition of institutions promulgated by Dick
Scott, a sociologist at Stanford, who argues that "(I) institutions consist of
cognitive, normative, and regulative structures and activities that provide
stability and meaning to social behavior."
Scott calls these structures "the three pillars of institutions." In fisheries
management, and in common property theory, it is practice just to emphasize
the third pillar - the regulative one. Hence follows the overly legalistic
approach to fisheries management. The so-called "new institutional economics"
basically shares this view on institutions but want rules that allow market
mechanisms to work more freely. For this, property rights are the key. Co-
management is not so much about rules per se as about the process through
which rules are made and the way this process is organized. Scott regards
institutions as role systems. Co-management is a role system that involves users
in regulatory decision-making, contrary to the top-down, government and
science based management systems so predominant in fisheries management
today. Who participate how (for instance, in which roles?), and with what
knowledge, are key questions here.
As Scott also reminds us, institutions do not only create restraints. Institutions
enable, authorize and legitimize. Institutions empower, they provide licenses
and, hence, opportunities. They confer rights as well as responsibilities. They
define what is appropriate for a particular person to do, what is required of
him, what is morally accepted and justified, and they help him to make sense
of the world. Thus, institutions are more that a set of ramifications, a
framework within which actors pursue their self-interests in a strategic, cost-
benefit manner. Interests are socially constructed, not naturally derived, and
institutions define what these interests are, how they are acquired and get
internalized by the individual. In short, from our perspective, institutions are
not only external to the individual. People also get institutions under their skin.
These, we argue, are the assumptions on institutions underpinning the co-
management model, but they are seldom explicitly expressed. They are,
however, in stark contrast to those assumptions that form the basis of the
Hardin model, the theory of games, and rational choice theory - which have all
become a part of the same key paradigm within natural resource management.
Although co-management and Individual Transferable Quotas are not mutually
exclusive but could well be elements of a comprehensive management scheme,
the two solutions come from entirely different assumptions on human nature
and social institutions.
It would probably help the resource management discourse, if we were more
aware of these differences. It would let us see where we come from when we
argue. Even more important is that it would reveal more alternatives for
action. The co-management model holds that there is a third way to avoid the
Tragedy of the Commons: In addition to legal and market mechanisms, there
are organizations. Also organizations coordinate users' behavior, as Ronald
Coase taught us.
Those who are sceptical to co-management often refer to the "Fox in
Henhouse." It is the free rider argument but at a collective level. The critics
contend that also user organizations would tend to defect and not respect their
agreements. Neither will an organization be able to commit their members to
follow its policy and its rules, particularly if membership is voluntary.
Devolution of management authority to user organizations is therefore too
risky. The temptation to abuse the resource will simply be too high.
It would, of course, be naive to rule out these outcomes. There is no doubt an
inherent logic to them. The point here, however, are those expectations derive
from certain assumptions on what institutions are and what they do - in this
case to and with the users of the resource. Recall that Scott regarded
institutions is role-systems that define what behaviour is appropriate and that
they provide mechanisms for socialization and internalization of norms. These
are the assumptions that make us conclude that the "Fox in the Henhouse"
metaphor is overdrawn. Instead we hypothetically argue that if users obtain
more management responsibility in functional terms, they will behave more
responsibly in moral terms. Since we are invited here to present ideas for new
research directions, this is obviously one: Under what conditions do hypothesis
* "Social Theory and Fisheries Co-Management," by Svein Jentoft, Bonnie J.
McCay, and Douglas Wilson, submitted to Marine Policy, June 1997.
Discussion (Moderated by Peter Parks, Department of Agricultural
Economics and Marketing, Rutgers University), who in his remarks
underscored the importance of discerning criteria for success and failure:
Svein Jentoft: When people are involved, they will comply with the rules. It
will bring down transaction costs.
Susan Buck, Political Science, North Carolina; IASCP: So you are equating
efficiency with morality?
Jentoft: Yes, when people are involved they control the outcome of the
Susan: Morality and efficiency? What is economically efficient may be
Jentoft: The argument is that the need to interfere may be less because the
norms that created the system would be allowed to work.
Walters: This sounds like privatization. It harkens back to Jeffersonian
individualism. We have evidence that under privatization we have resource
problems too. Can you comment on that?
Jentoft: This harkens back to what Peter Parks was saying. It has to do with
how you design co-management systems. We need to know more about what
design principles make a difference.
Berge: To me it sounds like co-management comes from above; is there an
example of involvement from below?
Jentoft: Yes, Norway. The demand from below came as a response to what
came from above. There are lots of systems that came from below in that they
develop and then become codified by law. This is a research question. How did
these systems evolve in the first place?
McCay: There is no simple answer. In North America, co-management comes
from below, but government's respond and they adapt. They co-opt this so it
can be imposed from above, then the local people react to this.
Jentoft: I got interested in this from my interest in cooperatives.
Berkes: Interesting question, like the one posed by Meg. It is not about above
or below, it is interactive. The origins are from below, but it develops as an
interactive process and it comes about if there is a resource crisis, or a
problem between users.
Pinkerton: By definition it comes from below. The design of the system comes
from people figuring out what works for them; the government only goes into
the interaction to minimize control. It is about control and keeping the costs
Meg: Is this something that the locals want as the best option or is it only what
they can get-is it the best they can get? I worry about this.
Tucker: (offered a New Jersey example, from his experience in the
Department of Environmental Protection, where processes of participation
were initiated from the local level in some cases but in others come from
Douglas Wilson, Post-Doctoral Scholar, and Ecopolicy Center: ... When you
talk about above and below where do you put nature? Where do you put
environmental reasons? ....
"Design Principles of Norwegian Commons"
Erling Berge, Sociology & Political Science, Norwegian University of Science and
Technology, Trondheim; IASCP Executive Board
If you look at the history of land law in England you find that rights of common
is defined as the right to remove something of material value from the land of
another owner. Those who possess such rights of common are called
commoners. I think this definition should alert us to an important dimension of
the commons: the distinction between ownership of the ground and ownership
of the material resources attached to the land.
The Roman law institution of dominium conferred upon the owner of the land
absolute powers (or as close as practically possible) over the land and all values
attached to it. The old maxim "nulle terre sans seineur" can surely be traced to
Roman times. But Romans also knew of common property. The premedieval and
medieval societies of Scandinavia as well as Great Britain were more concerned
about the material values they could harvest and the personal relations among
those with interests in the land than about the ground as such. In feudal
society the maxim was "no man without a lord". Most of the land was commons.
But tilled land was in some basic sense private property.
As the Roman law ideas spread across Europe the doctrine of dominium came in
conflict with the established local traditions of common ownership of land and
usufruct rights to its various resources. They also were in conflict with feudal
society and the ideas of tenure relations dominant there. I do not think it is a
great secret that the development of market economies was closely connected
with the gradual victory of the dominium principle. But in the mutual
adaptation of Roman and local ideas of law, new legal conceptions were
developed to reconcile some of the older concerns. The "dominium" doctrine
never became as total as it is presumed to have existed in Roman society. In
Norway, dialectic between Roman law and the development of the law of
commons has been somewhat different from England's experience, where the
rights of common survived in a much clearer way.
Now let us go to the Norwegian commons and look at the various instances of
commons. The major dimension differentiating them is precisely ownership of
the ground. Today Norwegian commons come in three "flavors" which I call
state commons, bygd commons and private commons. "Bygd" is an Norwegian
word which doesn't translate well to English. Its original meaning is something
like "local community". Because the areas burdened with rights of common
were tied to the local community, the bygd became tied to a certain area as
their commons. But during the past 1000 years this has turned around, and
today the bygds (in relation to commons) are defined in terms of their rights of
common. The bygd is defined as comprising of those farm enterprises who
rights of common in the area have called commons.
The defining difference between state commons, bygd commons and private
commons is the differences in ownership of ground. In a state common the
state is the owner of the ground, in the bygd and the private commons it is the
commoners who own the ground. What distinguishes bygd and private commons
from a co-ownership is that not all the commoners are owners of the ground.
The difference between a bygd and a private commons is that in the bygd
commons more than 50 percent of the commoners are owners of the ground
and in the private commons less than 50 percent of the commoners own the
The private commons are almost extinct. In an act from 1863, it was stipulated
that the private commons should go through a process of land consolidation
dividing them into one part private property for the owners of the ground with
the rest as a bygd commons. This division has been done in most areas, but
some small remnants are presumed to exist. Only one fairly big private
commons is known to exist. Here a timber company is the owner of the ground
while all the farms of the local community are commoners with rights of the
company have no interest in the pasture.
Currently there is also a fourth type of commons under construction. In a
recent government report a new kind of commons was proposed for the county
of Finnmark. It is a rather complicated legal construction designed to
accommodate the reindeer herders, farmers, as well as the local non-farmers.
Very briefly it can be described as a hybrid between the state commons and
the bygd commons.
The importance of the ownership of the ground and the separation of this from
rights of common is that the rights to the ground contain what is called the
remainder. All rights that are not positively accounted for as rights of common
belong to the remainder. In Norway for example hydro-electric power is one of
these remainder rights. It didn't exist 100 years ago. We didn't know about the
value of waterfalls until a new technology appeared. This new right fell to the
Design principles: -- ownership of ground and remainder -- important for
problems of coordination and distribution -- resource specific management --
important for sustainability of production -- power sharing central-local actors -
- important for distribution, monitoring and coordination
This separation of ground and remainder from the various specified resources is
the first and main principle of differentiation among various types of commons.
A second principle used in the definition of various types of commons is the
specification and definition of the resources the various types of entities are
allowed to withdraw resource units from. By saying entities I underline that the
beneficiary need not be a person. For some basic types of resources the unit
holding the right of common is the farm or the reindeer herding unit seen as a
legal entities and going concerns.
Resource types seems to be differentiated primarily after the ecological
dynamic of their regeneration (forests are different from wild game). This
dynamic has implications for how to allocate rights of enjoyment and control of
technology used in their appropriation. Secondarily they are differentiated
according to economic value. This has implications for who gets allocated the
right of enjoyment.
The units exercising rights are selected among the actors of the economic
system. They are persons or economic units in the primary industries (farm,
reindeer herding unit, fishing vessel). Stockholding companies or other kinds of
economic actors have been barred. The conceptualisation of the units able to
hold rights in the commons reveal a lot about the political objectives of the
The third principle is the way of sharing power between the state and the
commoner. Its origin goes back at least to the 11th century. At that time the
King of Norway was elected by the commoners and he was given certain powers
to go with his office. Mainly it was activities in war. But he was also given some
rights of coordination among the commons. The first one, I think, may have
been the right to give settlers permission to settle in the commons and make
their home there. From that time on the kings powers, gradually generalised to
state power, has grown in bounds and leaps, but also with significant setbacks.
Sometimes the government has taken some powers from the commoners, at
other times, when the government was busy elsewhere, the commoners have
taken rights back or gotten themselves new rights through prescription. Today
the relations between state and various types of commoners are formalised.
The difference in governance between state commons and bygd commons is
substantial. The state has no particular powers for decision-making in the bygd
commons but quite large in the state commons. The interests of the
groundowner in the state commons is managed by the company STATSKOG, and
the management and coordination of the interests of the commoners have been
delegated to the local municipalities in their "mountain board".
In the design of the institutions governing the commons I think there is a
particular concern about the distribution of benefits, about equity. There is
also a concern about the economic performance of the commons and about
stinting the usage or more generally about the sustainability of the resource.
Judging from the first known written law from the 12th century, their only
concern was equity and the procedural implications of that. Later on, from
about the 18th century, concern about limiting the removal of timber was read
into the law and from our century a concern about the sustainability of wild
game populations was introduced. The concern about economic performance
dates from the 19th century.
Problems of management:
Coordination of activities -- definition of units holding rights -- distribution of
harvest -- depends on geographical location of commoner -- sustainability of
It's not easy to reconcile the various goals, but one already mentioned
technique used for some of the rights of common is to tie them to units such as
a farm or a reindeer herding unit. Other rights are tied to persons in various
ways. The rights of timber are for example tied to the farm while the rights of
hunting are tied to the farmer and the persons in his household. Defining a
farm as the unit, enables to exercise rights in the commons, suggest a concern
with the viability of the farm as an economic enterprise as well as a practical
mechanism (at least for farms) for stinting the usage of the commons.
Seeing a farm or a reindeer herding unit as capable of holding some rights of
common is tied to the stipulation of inalienability of the rights of common. The
idea is strengthened with the stipulation that the rights cannot be enjoyed to a
larger extent than what the farm or herd needs. A farmer cannot take more
timber than he can use in building or repairing the houses on his farm. This
limitation was originally introduced in 1687. At that time the goal of the King
was to keep more of the timber for himself. There is no indication that the
intention was to use the rule as a conservation measure. But in the 1730s or 40s
the rule came to be seen by managers of the "King's commons" as very useful in
their effort to recreate good forests (and hence improve the economic result
for the King).
A second basic mechanism in the design is the differentiation of rights of
common according to geographical location. When persons are defined as the
units holding rights, the groups of persons are often limited by geographical
boundaries. These may be the boundaries of the household running the farm
business, the "bygd" where the farm is located, the local municipality where
rights are to be exercised or the state of Norway. A few rights are given to any
person which legitimately can visit the commons (i.e. with a right to stay in
Norway long enough to visit). The way rights are limited can be interpreted as
a compromise between considerations of equity and probability of overuse.
Each rabbit or grouse does not have high economic value and hunting them to
extinction is difficult. But too many hunters will pose a hazard for both the
hunters and the surrounding the hunting to the persons living in the bygd is one
solution. Fishermen on the other hand do not represent any particular danger
to the surrounding community qua fishermen. Fishing can be allowed for all
living in Norway.
Big game has high economic value and hunting to extinction is not particularly
difficult. Here restrictions need to be more severe. Even limiting the rights to
the household of the cadastral unit is not enough. A problem of coordination
requires special legislation and monitoring.
The more recent ideas about resource management has not been integrated
with the legislation on the commons, but has been laid down as resource
specific rules applying to all lands whether commons or private lands. One
reason for such a system of crosscutting management rules might be the
variations in size of the area needed to manage a resource effectively.
Variations in rules for various types of game illustrate this. The increasing
number of large game in the present century may be seen as a result of this
approach even if it is not the only causal factor.
The goals and various design principles and mechanisms used to achieve the
goals create a rather complex web of regimes. I will mention a few just to give
you an indication of what the result is.
There are particular rules for the enjoyment of housing timbers, fuelwood,
pasture, housing in the commons, fishing, and hunting of small game, beavers,
lynx, and big game. These rules are further cut across by the resource specific
management regimes. There are several levels of decision making and various
ways of sharing power is part of the gradient.
Common pool resources are defined as resources from which it is difficult or
relatively costly to exclude users and with rivalry in consumption are usually
seen as suitable for common property regimes. If there are considerable
measurement costs of reproduction and harvest, the argument for common
property is even better.
Comparing forest commons and private commons in contemporary Norway we
must conclude that it is not more difficult to put a fence around the commons,
nor is it more difficult to measure their reproduction or observe harvesting.
So why do forest commons exist in such large quantities in Norway?
I could suggest a couple of hypothesis; one reason might have to do with the
long cycle of life of the forest in terms of human generations. Because of this
there needs to be a stability of interest in the management of the resource
across generations. This is difficult to achieve successfully with individual
property. In a commons where several family farms are commoners and owners
of the ground, the probability of finding a good manager is better than in a
Across generations and the of the forest the greater availability of management
talent for forest commons suggest that they are likely to outperform most
private forests even if there in each generation will be a few private owners
doing better. I think this makes forests an interesting common pool resource.
Presentation #6 (introduced by McCay, who noted Pinkerton's role as an
"instigator" of co-management principles).
"Anthropological vs. Economic Models for Control of Fish Effort: Where do
Communities of Place and Communities of Interest Intersect?"
Evelyn Pinkerton, Simon Fraser University; IASCP.
It is interesting that you say "instigator." The title of my talk relates to a lot of
what has been said before. It comes out of a very frustrated set of discussions
with an economist in British Columbia who is another kind of instigator. In
British Columbia right now we are in a very intense struggle between
instigators of privatization, especially in the forms of ITQ's which are access
rights in fisheries, and people advocating co-management or community based
management. What I want to talk about is what has come out of my debates
with an economist who believes you can combine these two and that you can
form basically virtual communities of ITQ holders who can act as co-managers.
However, private access rights and the exercise of stewardship rights are very
different things. They are really very antithetical; the rationales behind these
rights are very different. The solution I see is to marry communities of interest
and communities of place in your management system, not through ITQs, but
by bringing owners of access rights into contractual arrangements with the
people who do live in a place. That's my solution to that dilemma. Before
discussing this, I have to tell you one story. Fikret told me that an
anthropologist who had been to one of the meetings of IASCP said there's
something about these common resource people. They never argue amongst
themselves. He is referring to something I had written which is basically a
challenge to Eleanor Ostrom and Schlager regarding property rights. Somehow
he got the idea that I wasn't issuing a challenge. I think the reason he got that
wrong idea was that we like each other a lot and are very respectful and very
nice to each other. Do do you have to be mean to someone to challenge their
ideas? I have learned so much from Eleanor Ostrom that it's very difficult for
me to be disrespectful, so what I would like to call what I am doing a friendly
Ostrom represents the institutional perspective, and I represent the human
ecology perspective. (Dr. Pinkerton referred extensively to overheads in her
talk; we have edited this to help the reader follow the argument without
seeing overheads). One of the contradictions that we see in Ostrom is that the
goals of institutions are to benefit individuals in terms of access rights at the
operational level and they are to benefit the group at the choice or at the
management level -- not the right to withdraw what you catch but the right to
manage the fisheries. I think there is often a tension or contradiction between
those two levels. The way anthropologists see the goals of the management
system is to benefit present and future generations, to protect the eco-system
and the linkages for large scale productivity's factors, offer multiple species
and what Jim Wilson at the University of Maine would call cross-species
tradeoffs, in other words effective regulation. The fundamental goal of
management from this perspective it is to manage effectively and there may be
a ruling to make efficiency trade-offs. This is the first layer of contrast I make
between these three positions, the neo-classical, the institutionalist and the
Now I would like to talk about the scope of rights. Economists who advocate
ITQs are really defining almost everything to come from the right of access or
the right to take fish. Everything flows from that. Those rights freely transfer
and the concentration is unconstrained. This is really about our concept of
property. In the systems the economists envision and have to some extent
helped create, it is assumed that if you have an access right it automatically
transfers into every other management right. It goes to the extreme of
contracting out: paying someone to monitor, to enforce, to do all those things
that the state usually does. Interestingly, this all flows from private property.
It all flows from a very central part of private property: access.
In the institutional perspective of Ostrom and Edella Schlager, who worked
with Ostrom on fisheries, rights are seen at different levels, and they might be
individual at an operational level and at the level of alienation or transfer, but
collective when the task is to decide upon managing a harvest. Let's contrast
that to a human ecology conception of a right: all the rights are collective and
multi-generational. And they are not just rights, but they are responsibilities.
They're about perpetuating the values that Svein was talking about and the
scope of these are far broader than "access," "rights to alienate," the "right to
define membership of or exclude," etc. Institutionalist analyses don't talk about
protecting the eco-system, having the right to information, the right to make
policy, having the right to plan or having the right to coordinate with other
uses. For example, how do you coordinate protecting habitat with harvest
management, how do you strategically envision the future of the fisheries, how
do you envision, basically how do you construct the kind of fishery that you
want in the future, very, very broad scope of activities that communities
demand to be involved in.
My model for this comes from the co-management experience of the tribes in
Washington State, where the tribes have every single level of these rights. This
goes back to the court decision of 1970, where the judge interpreted their
treaties to say that these tribes do have an access right but that they will never
be able to implement this access right if they do not have the right to plan the
harvest. They will never be able to exercise the access right if they can not
protect the habitat. This is the basis of their co-management agreement.
The right to basically set the terms and conditions, to plan and collect and
analyze data--these are not just extractive rights. They are far broader. In neo-
classical thinking, the assumption behind these rights is that individual utility
equals public welfare. Accordingly, the community of interest can operate like
the community in place. ITQ holders can form communities that can manage
the fisheries. It seems to me that there is a lot of rational choice theory in the
institutional perspective and there are a lot of institutions replacing markets.
Robert Bates makes that critique.
In British Columbia now we have private right advocates on one side saying do
this and we have the economist in the middle saying yes I think we can make
ITQS and bring together individual access rights with community based
planning. ITQ owners can just form communities. What I am saying at the other
end of that spectrum is that we need community based management
representing the human ecology perspective,-- communities that are going to
take care of the eco-system and the broad set of rights that relate to the
territory. For instance, what do you do about people who have access rights to
this territory but do not live there? What we are trying to construct now, as we
speak, in British Columbia are place-based community management boards
which include those people with access rights but are balanced in power. The
institutions would be designed to basically look at the nature of the access
right in relation to the broader set of rights. People with access rights (i.e.
fishers with historical patterns of fishing in the area) would have to make
contracts with local people if they want to have influence on the broader set of
rights, which includes questions pertaining to restoring habitats and fish stocks.
We're trying to bring these people into a board that isn't purely a stakeholder
board, not just representative of interests, but a board that represents
environmental interests, and the interests associated with those rights.
Susan Buck, moderator: The terminology and conceptualization of property
rights needs further discussion. The role of First Peoples or native peoples also
Pinkerton: (responding to query from Berkes about private rights holders and
co-management, gives an example): It has to do with the monitoring of ITQs.
ITQ holders have enormous incentives to free ride and so the way you stop
them from free riding is by having a system whereby you can monitor and
enforce the rules that they've agreed too. ITQ holders in British Columbia live
all over a huge coast; they don't live in one area and so the opportunities to
free ride are large. The way that communities can monitor and really know
that someone is free riding is based on long standing knowledge and
reputation; ability to check out what someone is really doing and multiple
people, so people in communities have very complex ways of interpreting
information. Information is often very ambiguous, it takes a long time to build
a case, often someone really is free riding if you are ignoring the dockside
monitor or you are dumping smaller fish over the side. It is difficult to do and
much more difficult if you don't have a community of face to face users. In
other words people who have had long face to face experience, shared
languages they have an enormous amount of data to use and first of all they
can check about half the people off their list because they know the people
who are honest, they know the people who are at risk of being free riders, so
they are the people they watch. So that is just a start of it.
McKean: I though common property meant, well every time I have heard of it
or encountered it, I thought collective ownership pertained to "stock" and
private ownership to "flow." The people who own the production system are not
necessarily the people who have the right to extract. (Discussed the equity
positions of those with ITQs).
Pinkerton: The debate is actually a lot more complex than that. Everyone
knows that salmon won't survive unless its habitat is protected, so people say
the community of interest should just pay a royalty to the community of place
and that is one way to do it. And another way is to look at restoring stocks is to
coordinate the harvest with the restoration, a very complex thing. ....the
communities in place can negotiate for the habitat, because they can say, you
can't live without us-if you don't have us as part of the management scheme
you are lost. You will lose the habitat and it will be paved over in British
Taylor: (responding to Buck's challenge to think about disciplinary background
and definitions of property): It is interesting when you look at the program
most of the time people don't say what discipline they work from, which is
obviously one of the resources or constraints people bring to an analysis. And
one of the things about society involves people who transgress those
Buck: It is interesting you should say transgress. There was a cartoon in the NY
Times that said we don't know him, he doesn't come to our meetings!
Jentoft: If there is a research task for this society it is to try to get at all the
meanings and ways of common use and common property. If you did this
between different types of resources and compared their uses, it would be very
interesting-because we seem to argue about the extent to which common
property is about access. It is a very simplistic notion about what common
property is, but BErgee demonstrated very clearly the existence of finer
The last part of afternoon was devoted to brief presentations by people in
attendance. One was Peter Riggs, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, East
Asia/Sustainable Resource Use Program, whose work deals with a program of
advocacy regarding how communities are integrated into the decision making
process. He questions who is involved in the process and how those involved
are held accountable to the communities they represent. Brad Walters, in the
Ecology graduate program at Rutgers, is studying common property issues in
the Caribbean and Southeast Asia, and is also concerned with declining
productivity in common property theory as compared to several years ago.
Frank Popper is a professor at Rutgers who is very well known in the U.S. for
the work he and Deborah Popper have done in the Great Plains region,
prompting institutional change in land use and resource management through
the concept of "buffalo commons." Rick Schroeder, in Geography at Rutgers,
has worked extensively on issues of environment and development in West
Africa and now, with Dorothy Hodgson, in East Africa as well, on counter-
mapping strategies. Jesse Ribot, at the Center for Critical Analysis for
Contemporary Culture at Rutgers this year, has worked on issues of
participatory management of forests in West Africa, and on a revised
theoretical paradigm that emphasizes access itself over property. Don
Kreuckeberg, a professor at Rutgers in Urban Planning and Policy Development,
deals with the property tax in the United States. He believes that small
changes in the way that it is administered might result in a substantial
redistribution of property and serve as some sort of land reform. He is working
on issues of property in relation to political change and structural reform in
Africa, and how property ownership is explained there (story of scarcity; story
of colonialization and the strong state; story of community culture/civil
society). Douglas Wilson, Eco-policy Center, Rutgers University, has studied the
fishing industry in Lake Victoria as the community struggles to develop a way to
manage a common property resource in the midst of long term economic
change. Julie Greenberg, a graduate student at University of California,
Berkeley, attended in her capacity as assistant newsletter editor for the
Common Property Newsletter of IASCP and Michelle Curtain in her capacity as
secretary for IASCP. Graduate and Undergraduate Students from Rutgers and
from Duke University in North Carolina also attended. Particular thanks are
owed to Rutgers graduate students Paige West, Fadjar Thufail, and Dhon
Setyawarmra for their help in running the workshop and taking notes.
Notes to readers
The Mountain Forum would like to thank Eco-policy Center for Agricultural,
Environmental and Resource Issues, New Jersey Agricultural Experiment
Station, New Brunswick, New Jersey for permission to include this paper in
Mountain Forum Online Library.