Local Commons and Global Interdependence: Heterogeneity and Cooperation in Two Domains

Robert Owen Keohane & Elinor Ostrom & Harvard University. Center For International Affairs

Language: English

Publisher: Sage Publications

Published: Mar 15, 1995


This volume offers a synthesis of what is known about very large and very small common-pool resources. It presents the deliberations and conclusions of a distinguished group of scholars who were brought together to bridge the communication gap between social scientists working at these opposite ends of the scale. Individuals using commons at the global or local level may find themselves in a similar situation. At an international level, states cannot appeal to authoritative hierarchies to enforce agreements they make to cooperate with one another. In some small-scale settings, participants may be just as helpless in calling on distant public officials to monitor and enforce their agreements. Scholars doing theoretical work on commons problems located at these opposite extremes of the continuum have independently discovered self-organizing regimes which rely on implicit or explicit principles, norms, rules and procedures rather than the command and control of a central authority. The contributors discuss the possibilities and dangers of scaling up and scaling down. They explore the impact of the number of actors and the degree of heterogeneity among actors on the liklihood of cooperative behaviour. Surprisingly, they find that the number of actors coping with local problems frequently exceeds the number of actors coping with global commons, and that size alone is not a determining factor for success. They further illustrate how the impact of heterogeneity depends on the presence or absence of public information and other related variables. Local Commons and Global Interdependence will be of value to academics and students of political science and political theory, international relations and conflict resolution, sociology and anthropology.