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The Question of the Commons
The Culture and Ecology of Communal Resources
By Bonnie J. McCay
439 pp. / 6.00 in x 9.00 in / 1990
Paper (978-0-8165-1205-8) [s]
  - Arizona Studies in Human Ecology

Related Interest
  - Nature and Environment
  - Anthropology

This collection of eighteen original essays evaluates the use and misuse of common-property resources, taking as its starting point ecologist Garret Hardin's assertion in "The Tragedy of the
As population grows, individuals have incentives to expand their exploitation well beyond the optimal yield or capacity of the resource. . . . It is a salutary message, well and diversely substantiated, that should gain the attention of anyone concerned with human ecology, population and resource management, or development.


This important book will provide an essential baseline for further work on that issue. . . . It will also be important for research in the anthropology of development and in the ecology of small-scale societies functioning as parts of much larger economic systems.


The question of the commons has never been addressed so thoroughly and comprehensively as in this book. It has been worth waiting for.

—American Anthropologist

Commons" that common property is doomed to overexploitation in any society. This book represents the first cross-cultural test of Hardin's argument and argues that, while tragedies of the commons do occur under some circumstances, local institutions have proven resilient and responsive to the problems of communal resource use.

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