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Why CPRs Best Suit 'Human Nature': A Philosophical Melding of Numerous Disciplines

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Clark, Mary E.
Conference: Building the European Commons: From Open Fields to Open Source, European Regional Meeting of the International Association for the Study of Common Property (IASCP)
Location: Brescia, Italy
Conf. Date: March 23-25
Date: 2006
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10535/1833
Sector: General & Multiple Resources
Social Organization
Region:
Subject(s): IASC
common pool resources
evolution
sustainability
property rights
conservation
rational choice theory
interdisciplinarity
Abstract: "The premise of this paper is that common property regimes are a central answer to the continued survival of humankind because they fit better with our evolved, intrinsic natures than do regimes based on competitive acquisition of private property. Not only do they provide opportunity for sustainable use; they also make possible a more satisfying fulfillment of our deep-rooted, universally shared emotional needs. The paper addresses three issues: 1) It points out that much experimental research, carried out almost uniformly in Western societies, using Western assumptions about human nature, is unfortunately scientifically misleading. Its findings inevitably confirm premises about human behavior that are, in fact, not universal; 2) It offers an alternative view of our universal nature by: (a) revising our image of natural selection, pointing out its multiple levels of action and introducing the notion of 'fitting-in' at each of these; (b) suggesting three basic human psychological needs, that are guided by emotions, not by rational thought. We are not 'game theorists' after all. (c) pointing out that since human adaptation is cultural, our overarching need is for a functional, harmonious, and meaningful social life, not for quantifiable material resources; 3) Finally, it contrasts hierarchies having legal controls with egalitarian/communally organized societies based on culture-wide customs with respect to three questions: (a) In which of these are our disparate needs for personal autonomy and acceptance within a group most equally balanced? (b) In which of these is social 'efficiency' most prevalent? Included here are not only the obvious material benefits, but also psychological fulfillment, including attachment to one's physical as well as social environment. It adds to the psychological/economic accounting ledger the overhead costs of addressing stress, violence, mistrust, cheating, competition etc. (c) How do these types of social orderings compare in their capacity to adapt to environmental change? "The paper concludes that: As the stresses from pandemic diseases, climate change, storms, oil scarcity, environmental destruction, deforestation, pollution... increase, our species will need rapid capacities to re-order local societies. This may include reconstruction of the United Nations to replace the power-based, elitist-nations' Security Council with a new 'guidance body' comprising a grassroots, multicultural 'Social Forum' dialogue community, where diverse peoples hear each other and suggest common umbrella institutions that facilitate - and coordinate - multiple locally adapting communities, a kind of Whole Earth co-management overseer. "Thus, we need to introduce the concepts of common property regimes widely and create local support for them. It will be a long, slow, process, since our emotional attachments to our own cultures are deep. Like the child being removed by court order from highly abusive parents, we will be terrified at losing the only culture we know. Change must be gentle and nonviolent. Yet the social - as well as environmental - rewards will be great."

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