Managing commons and the œconomy

Article published in ‘Ethique publique’, vol. 17, n° 2 | 2015

May 2016

Since Elinor Ostrom won the Nobel Prize, the commons is the new buzzword. It’s hard to keep track of the number of conferences, books and networks on the commons and their revival. And with good reason: the very concept of commons reflects an awareness of the limits of market regulation and public management of goods and services. We tend to overlook the fact that the commons described by the Nobel Prize winner are small-scale common pool resources (CPR) managed by closed communities, and that most commons that exist in industrialized countries, such as condominium buildings, are being managed in a way that is far from the idyllic process envisaged by defenders of cooperativism. Should we then dismiss it as a pointless, romantic idea? Not as long as we also exercise judiciousness, and make a thorough analysis of the scope and conditions by which commons can continue to exist. Based on the analysis made in the article Essay on œconomy, the author suggests a different approach to commons, based on what he calls the “sharing test”: what happens when we want to share a good? By analyzing different types goods and services, he defines the conditions when a system of market management is legitimate and identifies three categories of goods and services that require one form or another of collective management but with different styles of governance.

Publication available in French

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Pierre Calame, « Gestion des communs et œconomie », Éthique publique, vol. 17, n° 2 | 2015, mis en ligne le 18 avril 2016. DOI : 10.4000/ethiquepublique.2268