I am surprised that there's little review activity going on for this book, even though the author has won the "fake nobel" prize (i.e. the "price in memory of alfred nobel" for economy). Regardless of what one thinks about the fake nobel, the author is certainly someone whose achievements deserve recognition. This book is a pedagogical summary of the important work that she's done in relation to "Common Pool Resources".
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.
The book has extensive highlightling in it as was sold as being in 'good' condition. I would have rated it as fair.
Mandatory read for all natural resource or environmental managers.
Aldo Leopold wrote, "We must learn to live on a piece of land without spoiling it." Ostrom's body of work analyzes how people in different places are attempting to do that. Some fail, a few succeed and her analysis of cases and design principles for nested institutional and stakeholder interaction should be mandatory reading for natural resource, ecosystem, or environmental managers. Politicians and government administrators would benefit from applying her work to any allocation issue.
Elinor Ostrom's "Governing the Commons" can be divided into several segments. First, an introduction to traditional theory regarding the management of Common Pool Resources. This is primarily based on the choice between privatization or socialization. Second, she presents her theory of Common Pool Resources (Why they succeed or fail). Third, she describes case studies regarding Common Pool Resources that clearly work, mostly work, and have largely failed. Fourth, she finishes the book with a overarching chapter summing up her theory with a call for further research. The work takes an interdepartmental approach at analyzing Common Pool Resources.
Her theory stresses a series of important characteristics that will determine whether a Common Pool Resource succeeds or fails.
1. Clearly defined boundaries
2. Congruence between appropriation
3. Collective-choice arrangements
4. Effective monitoring
5. Graduated sanctions
6. Conflict-Resolution Mechanisms
7. Minimal recognition of rights to organize
8. Nested Enterprises
(Taken from my notes at the end of CH4. She carefully explains each point and why each has a varying degree of importance.)
"Governing the Commons" is a groundbreaking work in the school of Institutionalism. An economy cannot function without proper institutions. Too often economists ignore institutions because of the difficulty in creating realistic models. Ostrom's seminal work has provided the groundwork necessary to create better public policy.
The governance of natural resources used by many individuals in common is an issue of increasing concern to policy analysts. Both state control and privatization of resources have been advocated, but neither the state nor the market have been uniformly successful in solving common pool resource problems. After critiquing the foundations of policy analysis as applied to natural resources, Elinor Ostrom here provides a unique body of empirical data to explore conditions under which common pool resource problems have been satisfactorily or unsatisfactorily solved. Dr. Ostrom first describes three models most frequently used as the foundation for recommending state or market solutions. She then outlines theoretical and empirical alternatives to these models in order to illustrate the diversity of possible solutions. In the following chapters she uses institutional analysis to examine different ways--both successful and unsuccessful--of governing the commons. In contrast to the proposition of the tragedy of the commons argument, common pool problems sometimes are solved by voluntary organizations rather than by a coercive state. Among the cases considered are communal tenure in meadows and forests, irrigation communities and other water rights, and fisheries.