The Tragedy of the Commons: A Theoretical Update

  • James M. AchesonEmail author
Part of the Studies in Human Ecology and Adaptation book series (STHE, volume 11)


The theory of common property resources traces the overexploitation of natural resources to the absence of ownership rights. Garrett Hardin argues such resources can be managed, if at all, by autocratic government because individuals or local communities cannot cooperate to manage them. In recent decades the theory has undergone substantial elaboration. There are many examples of societies around the world that do manage resources using local level rules, which theorists have described in detail. Another set of theorists using game theory have shown when and where individuals can cooperate to conserve resources. Others have developed a new conception of property rights, noting that different types of property produce several kinds of goods. Still others point out that that both the commons and private property can be traced to differing levels of economic defendability. Recently, analysis of the commons has gone beyond natural resources to other kinds of commons, such as knowledge.


Resource management Tragedy of the commons Theory of common property Cooperation Garrett Hardin 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of MaineOronoUSA

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