Human Ecology

, Volume 18, Issue 1, pp 1-19

First online:

The Tragedy of the Commons: Twenty-two years later

  • David FeenyAffiliated withDepartments of Economics and Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, McMaster University
  • , Fikret BerkesAffiliated withInstitute of Urban and Environmental Studies, Brock University
  • , Bonnie J. McCayAffiliated withDepartments of Human Ecology and Anthropology, Rutgers University
  • , James M. AchesonAffiliated withDepartment of Anthropology, University of Maine

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Hardin's Tragedy of the Commons model predicts the eventual overexploitation or degradation of all resources used in common. Given this unambiguous prediction, a surprising number of cases exist in which users have been able to restrict access to the resource and establish rules among themselves for its sustainable use. To assess the evidence, we first define common-property resources and present a taxonomy of property-rights regimes in which such resources may be held. Evidence accumulated over the last twenty-two years indicates that private, state, andcommunal property are all potentially viable resource management options. A more complete theory than Hardin's should incorporate institutional arrangements and cultural factors to provide for better analysis and prediction.

Key words

co-management common property fisheries forests grazing lands sustainable development water resources wildlife