Theories and Theoretical Contribution

  • Laura Mae Jacqueline Herzog


The chapter discusses different streams of literature that have treated the phenomenon of cooperation. Social action in general and cooperation in particular has been researched on by different disciplines and for several decades. For instance, social capital theory discusses the social norms and actors’ self-interest that shape their actions (Coleman, Am J Sociol 94:S95–S120, 1988); resource dependence theory claims that the social context and interdependencies, understood as power relations and dependencies between organizations, constrain an organization’s behavior and actions (Casciaro and Piskorski, Adm Sci Q 50:167–199, 2005; Pfeffer and Salancik, The external control of organizations: a resource dependence perspective. Stanford University Press, Stanford, 1978); and theory on transaction costs has highlighted the necessity of possessing sufficient resources to meet the costs arising from cooperation (Taylor and Singleton, Polit Soc 21(2):195–214, 1993).

In this chapter, I reflect upon the key theoretical concepts of cooperation from sociology and political science that reach into the research domain on common-pool resources. Based on the literature review, I identify a research gap on the topic of cooperation in CPR problem situations. I close this research gap by outlining theoretical explanations for cooperation in the context of CPR problems. I draw these theoretical insights from the ecology of games framework (EGF), the Advocacy Coalition Framework (ACF) and studies on environmental problem perception.


Cooperation Collective action Tragedy of the commons Institutional Analysis and Development Framework (IAD) Ecology of games framework (EGF) Advocacy Coalition Framework (ACF) 


Primary Literature

  1. BMU, BMBF, IPCC Deutsche Koordinierungsstelle, UBA (2017a) Kernbotschaften des Fünften Sachstandsberichts des IPCC. Klimaänderung 2013: Naturwissenschaftliche Grundlagen (Teilbericht 1). IPCC, Deutsche Koordinierungsstelle, BonnGoogle Scholar
  2. BMU, BMBF, IPCC Deutsche Koordinierungsstelle, UBA (2017b) Kernbotschaften des Fünften Sachstandsberichts des IPCC. Klimaänderung 2014: Folgen, Anpassung und Verwundbarkeit (Teilbericht 2) Kernbotschaften des Fünften Sachstandberichts des IPCC. IPCC, Deutsche Koordinierungsstelle, BonnGoogle Scholar
  3. IPCC (2018) Global warming of 1.5°C. summary for policymakers. In: Masson-Delmotte V, Zhai P, Pörtner H-O, Roberts D, Skea J, Shukla PR, Pirani A, Moufouma-Okia W, Péan C, Pidcock R, Connors S, Matthews JBR, Chen Y, Zhou X, Gomis MI, Lonnoy E, Maycock T, Tignor M, Waterfield T (eds) Global Warming of 1.5 °C. An IPCC Special Report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty, SwitzerlandGoogle Scholar
  4. (2009) The Prize in Economic Sciences 2009 [online]. News release, 12 October. Available from: Accessed 27 September 2019

Secondary Literature

  1. Adger WN, Quinn T, Lorenzoni I, Murphy C (2016) Sharing the pain. Perceptions of fairness affect private and public response to hazards. Ann Am Assoc Geogr 106(5):1079–1096Google Scholar
  2. Agrawal A (2001) Common property institutions and sustainable governance of resources. World Dev 29(10):1649–1672CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Agrawal A (2014) Studying the commons, governing common-pool resource outcomes: some concluding thoughts. Environ Sci Policy 36:86–91CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Araral E (2014) Ostrom, Hardin and the commons: a critical appreciation and a revisionist view. Environ Sci Policy 36:11–23CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Axelrod R (1984) The evolution of cooperation. Basic Books, Perseus Books GroupGoogle Scholar
  6. Axelrod R, Hamilton W (1981) The evolution of cooperation. Science 211(4489):1390–1396CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Baland J-M, Platteau J-P (1996) Halting degradation of natural resources. Is there a Role for Rural Communities? [online]. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Rome, Italy. Available from: Accessed 27 Sept 2019
  8. Berardo R, Olivier T, Lavers A (2015) Focusing events and changes in ecologies of policy games: evidence from the Paraná River Delta. Rev Policy Res 32(4):443–464CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Binder CR, Hinkel J, Bots PWG, Pahl-Wostl C (2013) Comparison of frameworks for analyzing social-ecological systems. Ecol Soc 18(4):26CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Birkland TA (2011) An introduction to the policy process. Theories, concepts, and models of public policy making, 3rd edn. Routledge, London/New YorkGoogle Scholar
  11. Blythe JL, Murray G, Flaherty M (2014) Strengthening threatened communities through adaptation: insights from coastal Mozambique. Ecol Soc 19(2):6CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Bohnet I, Frey BS (1999) The sound of silence in prisoner’s dilemma and dictator games. J Econ Behav Organ 38:43–57CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Borgatti SP, Everett MG, Johnson JC (2013) Analyzing social networks. SAGE, LondonGoogle Scholar
  14. Calanni JC, Siddiki SN, Weible CM, Leach WD (2015) Explaining coordination in collaborative partnerships and clarifying the scope of belief homophily hypothesis. J Public Adm Res Theory 25(3):901–927CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Casciaro T, Piskorski M (2005) Power imbalance, mutual dependence, and constraint absorption: a closer look at resource dependence theory. Adm Sci Q 50:167–199CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Coleman JS (1988) Social capital in the creation of human capital. Am J Sociol 94:S95–S120CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Dasgupta P (1999) Economic progress and the idea of social capital. In: Dasgupta P, Serageldin I (eds) Social capital. A multifaceted perspective, Washington, DC, pp 325–424Google Scholar
  18. Dietz T, Ostrom E, Stern PC (2003) The struggle to govern the commons. Science 302(5652):1907–1912CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Fischer M, Leifeld P (2015) Policy forums: why do they exist and what are they used for? Policy Sci 48(3):363–382CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Fischer M, Sciarini P (2015) Unpacking reputational power: intended and unintended determinants of the assessment of actors’ power. Soc Networks 42:60–71CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Fischer M-E, Irlenbusch B, Sadrieh A (2004) An intergenerational common pool resource experiment. J Environ Econ Manag 48:811–836CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Fischer M, Ingold K, Sciarini P, Varone F (2016) Dealing with bad guys: actor- and process-level determinants of the “devil shift” in policy making. J Publ Policy 36(2):309–334CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Gerber J-D, Knoepfel P, Nahrath S, Varone F (2009) Institutional resource regimes: towards sustainability through the combination of property-rights theory and policy analysis. Ecol Econ 68:798–809CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Gersonius B, van Buuren A, Zethof M, Kelder E (2016) Resilient flood risk strategies: institutional preconditions for implementation. Ecol Soc 21(4):28CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Giest S, Howlett M (2014) Understanding the pre-conditions of commons governance: the role of network management. Environ Sci Policy 36:37–47CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Gordon HS (1954) The economic theory of a common-property resource: the fishery. J Polit Econ 62(2):124–142CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hardin G (1968) The tragedy of the commons. The population problem has no technical solution; it requires a fundamental extension in morality. Science 162(3859):1243–1248CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hardin R (1982) Collective action. A Book from Resources for the Future. The John Hopkins University Press, BaltimoreGoogle Scholar
  29. Hardin R (1995) One for all. The logic of group conflict. Princeton University Press, PrincetonGoogle Scholar
  30. Hardin R (2009) How do you know? The economics of ordinary knowledge. Princeton University Press, PrincetonCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Heikkila T, Gerlak AK (2005) The formation of large-scale collaborative resource management institutions: clarifying the roles of stakeholders, science, and institutions. Policy Stud J 33(4):583–612CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Henry AD, Dietz T (2011) Information, networks, and the complexity of trust in commons governance. Int J Commons 5(2):188–212CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Henry AD, Lubell M, McCoy M (2010) Belief systems and social capital as drivers of policy network structure: the case of California regional planning. J Public Adm Res Theory 21(3):419–444CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Ingold K, Fischer M (2014) Drivers of collaboration to mitigate climate change: an illustration of Swiss climate policy over 15 years. Glob Environ Chang 24:88–98CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Kerr J (2007) Watershed management: lessons from common property theory. Int J Commons 1:89–110CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Leifeld P, Malang T (2014) National parliamentary coordination after Lisbon: a network approach, BarcelonaGoogle Scholar
  37. Lubell M (2013) Governing institutional complexity: the ecology of games framework. Policy Stud J 41(3):537–559CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Lubell M, Schneider M, Scholz JT, Mete M (2002) Watershed partnerships and the emergence of collective action institutions. Am J Polit Sci 46(1):148–163CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Lubell M, Henry AD, McCoy M (2010) Collaborative institutions in an ecology of games. Am J Polit Sci 54(2):287–300CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Lubell M, Robins G, Wang P (2011) Policy coordination in an ecology of water management games. Southern Illinois University, CarbondaleGoogle Scholar
  41. Lubell M, Scholz JT, Berardo R, Robins G (2012) Testing policy theory with statistical models of networks. Policy Stud J 40:351–374CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Mayntz R, Scharpf FW (eds) (1995) Gesellschaftliche Selbstregelung und politische Steuerung. Campus Verlag, Frankfurt/Main/New YorkGoogle Scholar
  43. McGinnis MD (2011) An introduction to IAD and the language of the Ostrom workshop: a simple guide to a complex framework. Policy Stud J 39(1):169–183CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. McGinnis MD, Ostrom E (2014) Social-ecological system framework: initial changes and continuing challenges. Ecol Soc 19(2):30CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. McPherson M, Smith-Lovin L, Cook JM (2001) Birds of a feather: Homophily in social networks. Annu Rev Sociol 27:415–444CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Monge PR, Contractor NS (2003) Theories of communication networks. Oxford University Press, Oxford/New YorkGoogle Scholar
  47. Nohrstedt D, Weible CM (2010) The logic of policy change after crisis: proximity and subsystem interaction. Risks Hazards Crisis Public Policy 1(2):1–32CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Nowak MA (2006) Five rules for the evolution of cooperation. Science 314(5805):1560–1563CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Okada A (2008) The second-order dilemma of public goods and capital accumulation. Public Choice 135:165–182CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Olson M (1965) The logic of collective action. Public goods and the theory of groups, 2nd edn. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MAGoogle Scholar
  51. Ostrom E (1990) Governing the commons. The evolution of institutions for collective action. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Ostrom E (1998) A behavioral approach to the rational choice theory of collective action. Presidential address, American Political Science Association. Am Polit Sci Rev 92(1):1–22CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Ostrom E (2000a) Collective action and the evolution of social norms. J Econ Perspect 14(3):137–158CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Ostrom E (2000b) The danger of self-evident truths. Political Science and Politics 33(1):33–44CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Ostrom E (2005) Understanding institutional diversity. Princeton University Press, PrincetonGoogle Scholar
  56. Ostrom E (2007) Collective action theory. In: Boix C, Stokes SC (eds) The Oxford handbook of comparative politics. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 186–208Google Scholar
  57. Ostrom E (2010a) Analyzing collective action. Agric Econ 41(s1):155–166CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Ostrom E (2010b) Polycentric systems for coping with collective action and global environmental change. Glob Environ Chang 20:550–557CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Ostrom E, Gardner R, Walker J (eds) (1994) Rules, games and common pool resources. Michigan University Press, MichiganGoogle Scholar
  60. Ostrom E, Burger J, Field CB, Norgaard RB, Policansky D (1999) Revisiting the commons: local lessons, global challenges. Science 284(5412):278–282CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Ostrom E, Cox M, Schlager E (2014) An assessment of the institutional analysis and development framework and introduction of the social-ecological systems framework. In: Sabatier PA, Weible CM (eds) Theories of the policy process. Westview Press, Boulder, pp 267–306Google Scholar
  62. Pelosi C, Goulard M, Balent G (2010) The spatial scale mismatch between ecological processes and agricultural management: do difficulties come from underlying theoretical frameworks? Agric Ecosyst Environ 139(4):455–462CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Pfeffer J, Salancik GR (1978) The external control of organizations: a resource dependence perspective. Stanford University Press, StanfordGoogle Scholar
  64. Poteete AR, Janssen MA, Ostrom E (2010) Working together. Collective action, the commons, and multiple methods in practice. Princeton University Press, PrincetonCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Rapoport A, Chammah AM (1965) Prisoner’s dilemma. A study in conflict and cooperation, 2nd edn. The University of Michigan Press, Ann ArborGoogle Scholar
  66. Sabatier PA (1988) An advocacy coalition framework of policy change and the role of policy-oriented learning therein. Policy Sci 21(2/3):129–168CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Sabatier PA (1993) Policy change over a decade or more. In: Sabatier PA, Jenkins-Smith HC (eds) Policy change and learning. An advocacy coalition approach. Westview Press, Boulder, pp 13–39Google Scholar
  68. Sabatier PA (1998) The advocacy coalition framework: revisions and relevance for Europe. J Eur Publ Policy 5(1):98–130CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Sabatier PA (2007) The need for better theories. In: Sabatier PA (ed) Theories of the policy process. Westview Press, Boulder, pp 3–17Google Scholar
  70. Sabatier PA, Jenkins-Smith HC (eds) (1993) Policy change and learning. An advocacy coalition approach. Westview Press, BoulderGoogle Scholar
  71. Sabatier PA, Weible CM (2007) The advocacy coalition framework. Innovations and clarifications. In: Sabatier PA (ed) Theories of the policy process. Westview Press, Boulder, pp 189–220Google Scholar
  72. Sabatier PA, Hunter S, McLaughlin S (1987) The devil shift: perceptions and misperceptions of opponents. West Polit Q 40(3):449–476CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Schemmel E, Friedlander AM, Andrade P, Keakealani K, Castro LM, Wiggins C, Wilcox BA, Yasutake Y, Kittinger JN (2016) The codevelopment of coastal fisheries monitoring methods to support local management. Ecol Soc 21(4):34CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Schlager E (2004) Common-pool resource theory. In: Durant RF, Fiorino DJ, O’Leary R (eds) Environmental governance reconsidered. Challenges, choices, and opportunities. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, pp 145–175Google Scholar
  75. Taylor M, Singleton S (1993) The communal resource: transaction costs and the solution of collective action problems. Polit Soc 21(2):195–214CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. The Economist (2007) Playing games with the planet. A version of the “prisoner’s dilemma” may suggest ways to break through the Kyoto impasse. The Economist, 27 SeptemberGoogle Scholar
  77. Thiel A (2015) Constitutional state structure and scalar re-organization of natural resource governance: the transformation of polycentric water governance in Spain, Portugal and Germany. Land Use Policy 45:176–188CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Weible CM (2005) Beliefs and perceived influence in a natural resource conflict: an advocacy coalition approach to policy networks. Polit Res Q 58(3):461–475CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Weible CM (2006) An advocacy coalition framework approach to stakeholder analysis: understanding the political context of California marine protected area policy. J Public Adm Res Theory 17:95–117CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Weible CM, Sabatier PA (2005) Comparing policy networks: marine protected areas in California. Policy Stud J 33(2):181–202CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Weible CM, Pattison A, Sabatier PA (2010) Harnessing expert-based information for learning and the sustainable management of complex socio-ecological systems. Environ Sci Policy 13:522–534CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Laura Mae Jacqueline Herzog
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Environmental Systems ResearchOsnabrück UniversityOsnabrückGermany

Personalised recommendations