increase harvesting levels because they can now exploit resources for cash income as well (Carrier, 1987; Colchester, 1994:86-87; Stocks, 1987:119-120).

It is important to note that apart from potentially higher returns, there are additional reasons why common property arrangements may be undermined by market pressures. Market integration introduces new ways of resolving the risks that common property institutions are often designed to address. Pooling of resources that becomes possible under common property regimes helps those who are subject to such regimes. It helps by allowing them to reduce risks they would face were they to exploit the same resources individually.34 Mobility over space and through time (storage) are comparable mechanisms to address production fluctuations, but markets and exchange compete with them by encouraging individuals to specialize in different kinds of economic activities. By specializing in different occupations and exchanging their surplus output, individual producers can alleviate the need for migration (with or without their means of production) and storage. In addition, markets also form alternative arenas for the provision of credit and generation of prestige in ways that can undermine the importance of other local institutions.

Analogous to market articulation is the question of technological means available to exploit the commons. Sudden emergence of new technological innovations that transform the cost-benefit ratios of harvesting benefits from commons are likely to undermine the sustainability of institutions. Sufficient time may be necessary before users are able to adapt to the new technologies. Furthermore, technological change is capable of disrupting not just the extent to which existing mechanisms of coordination around mobility, storage, and exchange can continue to serve their members, but the very nature of the political and economic calculation that goes into the invention and definition of common property. Recall how the invention of barbed wire permitted cheap fencing, and helped convert rangelands in the U.S. west into an excludable resource.35

The arrival of markets and new technologies, and the changes they might prompt in existing resource management regimes, is not a bloodless or innocent process (Oates, 1999). Typically, new demand pressures originating from markets and technological changes are likely to create different incentives about the products to be harvested, technologies of harvest, and rates of harvest. They are also likely to change local power relations as different subgroups within a group using a common-pool resource gain different types of access and maneuver to ensure their gains (Fernandes et al., 1988; Jessup and Peluso, 1986; Peluso, 1992). And in many cases, as new market actors gain access to a particular common-pool resource, they may seek alliances with state actors in efforts to privatize commons or defend the primacy of their claims (Ascher and Healy, 1990; Azhar, 1993). Indeed, state officials themselves can become involved in the privatization of commons and the selling of products from resources that were earlier under common property arrangements (Rangarajan, 1996; Sivaramakrishnan, 1999; Skaria, 1999).



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement