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Special Collection

Collective action institutions in a long-term perspective

Collection launched: 27 Feb 2020
Adopting a historical approach necessarily leads to looking at the long term, and looking at the long term unavoidably adds motion to hitherto more static analyses. Much of the literature on the commons produced in the last twenty-five years can be understood as an enquiry into the factors that explain the performance of common-property regimes. The basic outline of this literature is evident: commons’ performance (however measured) becomes the variable to explain, with a number of internal and external factors being treated as exogenous explanatory variables. As historians by definition interested in (institutional) change, our approach is certainly different: we often take institutions, their internal design, and their rules as the main dependent variables and try to account for change in them by looking at a number of factors. Contrasting with more static studies, work on have commons have evolved over time has been generally scarce. Whereas in the past most literature has departed from rules and institutions (as well as from the bio-physical conditions and the community attributes) in order to explain the type of interactions between participants within a given action-situation, we are more interested in the feedback loops that push communities to adjust their rules in front of past performance.