"Managing the Commons: The Role of Social Norms and Beliefs"

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Whether governance of the village commons is ensured through decentralized mechanisms, such as stigmatization or ostracism, or through external enforcement mechanisms involving authority structures and regulatory procedures, effective cooperation can be established only if the appropriate beliefs and expectations have come to prevail. There is no reason to believe that such beliefs and expectations spontaneously arise when there is a need for collective efforts. Several case studies reviewed in this paper show that collective action may succeed or fail depending on the specific historical antecedents of the community concerned. It is actually through expectations that past historical events may influence cooperation prospects in a positive or a negative direction. Previous conflicts may persistently obstruct collective endeavor when they are kept lively in the collective memory through rituals and tales. On the other hand, if bad antecedents do not exist, collective action and the required cooperation-supporting beliefs may endogenously and gradually develop over time, but only provided that the prevailing social and political structure is not too differentiated.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Contested Commons Conversations Between Economists and Anthropologists
EditorsP. I Bardhan
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherBlackwell Publishing
Number of pages21
ISBN (Print)978-1-4051-5716-2
Publication statusUnpublished - 2008


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