- Series: Political Economy of Institutions and Decisions
- Paperback: 298 pages
- Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1st edition (November 30, 1990)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0521405998
- ISBN-13: 978-0521405997
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 28 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #366,885 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action (Political Economy of Institutions and Decisions) 1st Edition
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"In this ambitious, provocative, and very useful book Ostrom combines a lucid theoretical framework with a series of diverse and richly detailed case studies...she tightly reviews and critiques extant models of cooperation and collective action and argues powerfully that communities of actors are sometimes able to maintain a common resource for long periods of time without outside intervention." Contemporary Sociology
"Ostrom's book is an important contribution to the problems of Commom Property Resources that is, the lack of well-defined property rights over a certain resource. Elinor Ostrom convincingly shows that there are many different viable mixtures between public and private, in particular self-organization and self-governance by the users of the common property resource. The book makes fascinating reading, particularly as it is well written." Bruno S. Frey, Kyklos
"This is an important book that deserves to be read widely in the policy community as well as the scholarly community....this analysis leaves us with provocative questions whose examination promises to broaden and deepen our understanding of human/environment relationships at many levels." Oran R. Young, International Environmental Affairs
"Cambridge University Press has published an impressive series called 'The Political Economy of Institutions and Decisions.' Elinor Ostrom, Professor of Political Science at Indiana University, has made an important contribution to the series with Governing the Commons....In large part, the book is a fascinating and detailed examination of common ownership of various natural resources." Dean Lueck, Constitutional Political Economy
"Students of common-property resource regimes will find much of great interest in the volume." Barry C. Field, Land Economics
"...timely, well-written, and a useful addition to our understanding of the challenges of natural resource management....useful for undergraduate and graduate students as well as field practitioners interested in the development of scientifically based research. It provides a firm grounding in the theoretical underpinnings that should guide empirical investigations....Ostrom offers a unique source of information on the realities of resource management institutions coupled with the challenge for continued examination of institutions in order to develop better ways to address the CPR challenge." Gordon L. Brady, Southern Economic Journal
"Ostrom's book makes an important contribution to the emerging literature on analytical institutional economics. Her work reminds us that analysis of institutions and institutional change is an important aspect of a broader political economy that underlies meaningful economic policy advice." Daniel W. Bromley, Journal of Economic Literature
"This is the most influential book in the last decade on thinking about the commons. For those involved with small communities...located in one nation, whose lives depend on a common pool of renewable resources....Governing the Commons has been the intellectual field guide." Whole Earth
"A classic by one of the best-known thinkers on communities and commons." Yes! A Journal of Positive Futures
Neither the state nor the market have been successful in solving common pool resource problems. This study accordingly analyzes communal interests in land, irrigation communities, fisheries, etc. and proposes alternative solutions.
Top customer reviews
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It is written in an accurate and scientific style that never falls into the jargon trap. This gives a vivid impression of the author as someone open minded and keeping her thinking clear and focused on the facts.
After an introduction on her intentions and method, she presents the so called "tragedy of the commons" (and its close kin, the "prisoner's dilemna") as a situation where theoretical thinking sees central intervention as the only way to break the (self)destructive behaviour predicted and often observed: everyone tries to appropriate as much as they can get away from common resources until those resources collapse and everyone becomes worse off. She then calls attention to several field situations where individuals have been able to organize themselves to avoid falling into this trap without external intervention. The situations described are as diverse as mountain terrain in Switzerland, irrigation land in Spain and the Philippines or even fisheries in Turkey. Ostrom provides a detailed description of the salient features of these institutions before highlighting the common ground and the differences. She points out that these examples have institutions that have been stable for a long time and that we're therefore unsure about the process through which the institutions themselves were created.
She then turns to more recent examples of successful institutions managing CPR where information is available regarding the institutional development that led to the current situation. The key examples are water management institutions in California and a project to improve local irrigation communities in Sri Lanka. She finally contrasts successful institutions with failing ones, with a view to identify whether factors that may have been thought of as being factors of success may not actually be irrelevant.
The overall message of the book is that it is possible for local communities to take care of themselves and to efficiently manage CPR. It is not easy though and certain type of government intervention actually makes the matter worse. Likewise privatization is also not a one size fits all solution. So she's basically highlighting the need to consider each situation on its own, without ideological glasses. She provides a framework to analyze each specific case, but certainly avoids over-generalization.
The world needs more people like Ostrom, (i.e. lucid thinkers genuinely interested to understand what goes on). Too bad the typical social "scientist" seems to be more interested to bend the facts to fit to his theories and ideologies.
Ostrum's main idea is that a blend of a private property regime and state/government approach is the best way to govern the commons and prevent over-withdrawal (i.e. over-fishing, etc). She stresses the importance of local knowledge in setting up systems and fostering trust between the governors and those who are governed. However, the state's use of scientific knowledge and its ability to enforce the boundaries efficiently and strictly are of significance as well.
Unfortunately, the work suffers from a muddling of ideas. Ostrum argues against the separate two approaches as an to portray her idea as a fair balance, but sometimes it's unclear why she discusses some points or uses some example.
A good read if you have the time and can sift through schemes and organize them.
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