Human Ecology

, Volume 18, Issue 1, pp 1–19

The Tragedy of the Commons: Twenty-two years later


  • David Feeny
    • Departments of Economics and Clinical Epidemiology and BiostatisticsMcMaster University
  • Fikret Berkes
    • Institute of Urban and Environmental StudiesBrock University
  • Bonnie J. McCay
    • Departments of Human Ecology and AnthropologyRutgers University
  • James M. Acheson
    • Department of AnthropologyUniversity of Maine

DOI: 10.1007/BF00889070

Cite this article as:
Feeny, D., Berkes, F., McCay, B.J. et al. Hum Ecol (1990) 18: 1. doi:10.1007/BF00889070


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-managementcommon propertyfisheriesforestsgrazing landssustainable developmentwater resourceswildlife
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© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1990