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Reversing the 'Tragedy' of the Commons? Sustainable management and the Commons Act 2006

Lookup NU author(s): Emeritus Professor Christopher Rodgers



The Commons Act 2006 is the first statute since the Commons Registration Act 1965 to address the problems associated with the management of common land in England and Wales. A key focus for the 2006 Act is the introduction of mechanisms for the sustainable management of common land, including self-regulatory commons councils. This article examines the ‘sustainable’ management of common land in historical and contemporary perspective. It sets the 2006 Act, and the sustainable management of common land, in the wider context of the ongoing debate triggered by Hardin's ‘Tragedy of the Commons’ and subsequent institutional and post-institutional scholarship on common pool resource management. It uses historical and qualitative research data drawn from three case studies to demonstrate the irrelevance of Hardin's thesis in an English context, and identifies the Commons Registration Act of 1965 as the true ‘tragedy’ of the English and Welsh commons. The case studies also illustrate the challenges posed by the introduction of legal mechanisms to promote the ecologically sustainable management of the modern commons, and inform the critique of the Commons Act 2006 developed in the article.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Rodgers C

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Modern Law Review

Year: 2010

Volume: 73

Issue: 3

Pages: 461-486

Print publication date: 07/05/2010

Date deposited: 07/01/2011

ISSN (print): 0026-7961

ISSN (electronic): 1468-2230

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell


DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-2230.2010.00802.x

Notes: This article is one of the primary outputs from the AHRC Contested Common Land research project. It uses a case study approach to illustrate problems in enforcing new measures in the Commons Act 2006 and draws on qualitative and historical research within the AHRC project. Very strong peer review approval from MLR. This is a strongly original, interdisciplinary and unique contribution to the scholarship on common pool resource management


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