Success on the Commons: A Comparative Examination of Institutions for Common Property Resource Management


Journal Article

The notorious ‘tragedy of the commons’ is incorrectly held to be the eventual fate of all resources that are used collectively rather than by individual private owners. This essay reviews several examples around the world of successful collective management of environmental resources - institutional regimes that have operated for decades or even centuries without resulting in degradation of resources. It then explores the features shared by these historically unconnected institutional regimes in order to begin specifying the characteristics of regimes that circumvent tragedy. Successful systems usually have well defined communities of eligible user-managers and clear, easily enforced and environmentally cautious rules to constrain resource use. But they vary greatly in terms of the allocation of the harvested supply of the resource, from hierarchical systems of rights with unequal allocation of the resource to very egalitarian systems that assign equal shares by lottery. © 1992, Sage Publications. All rights reserved.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Mckean, MA

Published Date

  • January 1, 1992

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 4 / 3

Start / End Page

  • 247 - 281

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1460-3667

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0951-6298

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1177/0951692892004003002

Citation Source

  • Scopus