Back to contents - Previous file - Next file
There is a more or less explicit conclusion that lies behind many popular discussions of environmental degradation (particularly among ecologist militants) and that emerges from a whole current of anthropological thinking. This conclusion can be stated under the form of a three-pronged proposition: (a) traditional management systems (which have been designated as regulated CPRs in Part I) have been the rule rather than the exception in much of the developing world; (b) as long as they have held together, they have been fairly successful in conserving the natural resources at stake; and (c) unfortunately, many of these systems have broken down under the disruptive impact of external forces (see, e.g., Panayotou, 1988: 91).
Are these ideas part of a 'persisting myth' that tends to 'romanticize' human communities and their abilities to apply wisdom and foresight in their relationships with their resources and each other (McCay and Acheson, 1987: 10; see also McNicoll, 1990: 152)? Or, on the contrary, are they a rather correct reflection of the genuine potential of traditional village societies for managing their localized CPRs as long as their internal social order is not disturbed by government policies, population growth, and broad market forces? Also, once traditional management systems have been eroded under the impact of these external factors, is there any hope that they can be somehow rejuvenated or adapted to modern challenges provided, of course, that a suitable environment is created around them? Finally, to the extent that socioanthropological research points to diverse experiences of both success and failure in collective actions for the management of local-level CPRs, what are the main determinants of the eventual outcome of such actions and what factors can account for their presence or absence? These are the central questions which are addressed in Part II of our work.
Let us now give a brief sketch of how it is organized. In Chapter 10, we attempt to assess the claim that members of traditional village societies were able to manage their CPRs effectively. Then, in Chapter 11, we examine whether, in what sense and how local-level institutions for managing the commons have been adversely affected or even destroyed by exogenous forces or external factors. This chapter comprises two parts. In the first part, the impact of state interventions and regulations as they have taken place in many Third World countries during recent decades is evaluated while in the second one attention is focused on the influence of population growth, market integration, technological change, and some other factors. The basic idea is ( 1 ) to make up our mind about the practical effectiveness of systems of public ownership and centralized management of CPRs, particularly in the context of developing countries; and (2) to gauge the vulnerability of traditional local arrangements to sudden or significant changes in their background environment. In Chapter 12, learning from numerous positive as well as negative localized experiences with common property management, an effort is made to identify the main factors that can simultaneously account for the effectiveness and long-term viability of CPR management schemes in some observed cases, and for the absence or failure of such arrangements in other recorded instances. In Chapter 13, broad policy implications are drawn from the results achieved in the previous chapters and special attention is devoted to examining the possibility for both the State and the local communities to play a role in the management of CPRs, acting in concert and adding up their respective strengths while making up for their respective weaknesses.
We end this introduction with a caveat. The empirical material used in this chapter is essentially derived from socio-anthropological research in which participant behaviour within the confines of in-depth case-studies is the dominant form of investigation. Such a methodological approach is appropriate given that the precise identification of the characteristics of local-level institutions for CPR management requires deep knowledge of the society concerned as well as varied insights into its global working. Nevertheless, leaving aside the well-known vexed problem of whether case-studies pertaining to localized areas widely scattered throughout the world can lead to generalizable results, due mention must be made of the following difficulty stressed by Kanbur. Many, if not most, socio-anthropological studies were undertaken not necessarily to elucidate the mechanisms of CPR management. It therefore takes a certain interpretation and interpolation to fit the observations reported in the case-study into a coherent picture of resource management. 'In these situations we are often twice removed from the basic phenomenonrelying firstly on the interpretations of the participant observers and secondly on the interpretations of the case study oriented common property analyst' (Kanbur, 1992: 12).