Human Ecology

, Volume 18, Issue 1, pp 1–19

The Tragedy of the Commons: Twenty-two years later

  • David Feeny
  • Fikret Berkes
  • Bonnie J. McCay
  • James M. Acheson

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

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Feeny
    • 1
  • Fikret Berkes
    • 2
  • Bonnie J. McCay
    • 3
  • James M. Acheson
    • 4
  1. 1.Departments of Economics and Clinical Epidemiology and BiostatisticsMcMaster UniversityHamiltonCanada
  2. 2.Institute of Urban and Environmental StudiesBrock UniversitySt. CatharinesCanada
  3. 3.Departments of Human Ecology and AnthropologyRutgers UniversityNew Brunswick
  4. 4.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of MaineOrono

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