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Between Tradition and Modernity: Local Institutions and the Management of Common Property in Mountain Regions in the Southern Norway in the 1990'S

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Gundersen, Frode
Conference: Constituting the Commons: Crafting Sustainable Commons in the New Millennium, the Eighth Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of Common Property
Location: Bloomington, Indiana, USA
Conf. Date: May 31-June 4
Date: 2000
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10535/1069
Sector: General & Multiple Resources
Region: Europe
Subject(s): IASC
common pool resources
decision making
social organization
institutional analysis
Abstract: "This paper is a presentation of an empirical study of decision-making in local institutions of the state commons and the parish commons in southern Norway from 1990 to 1998. The local institutions responsible for the managing of the state commons, Fjellstyret, the Mountain Board, and the the local institutions in the parish commons, Allmenningsstyret, the Commons Board, both have many different tasks that bring them into a role to balance between tradition and modernity; between traditional local management and modern nature protection and more economic development. These institutions have been both connected to local interest groups, local traditions, municipalities and state sectors (particularly the forestry sector) for quite a long time. During the 90s there has been a significant change in the legislation for the commons and in the institutional environment of the commons in Norway. "The main purpose of the project was to examine how members of this two different local institutions behave when they are under pressure from both environmental authorities to implement national environmental objectives and from different local economic actors to develop agriculture and local tourism. "The Mountain Board is a more public institution than the Commons Board which is a border for the local stakeholder, but in general the members of two types of boards behave in a similar way. They wanted at the same time to maintain traditions and to adopt modern management of nature and to introduce the market mechanism. The were no significant difference between the two type of commons. But there where differents between traditions and modernity between different local communities and different policy fields or political sectors. "Concerning the local communities: one significant effect of the institutional change in the 90s is the more active outfield-planning and environmental policy from the municipalities. The effect is that, in the commons, which had a tradition of being conducive to planning and public environmental policy, more cooperation between the common and the municipality has developed. The commons, which has tradition of beeing skeptical towards the municipal authority, has avoided participation in the new programs from the municipality. "Concerning the institutional environment outside the local communities: the two types of commons were connected to different political sectors or institutional fields. The Mountain Board was connected to the municipality authority and to several political sectors such as the agricaltural sector and the environmental sector. The Mountain Board, for the local community, was a public institution. The Commons Board was connected to the forestry sector; not to other sectors, and not to municipality authority. The board pandered to owners of the commons. Both types of commons had a remarkable ability to 'resist' new politics from different political sectors. One important exception is the effect of the new rules for elections to the Commons Board, stated in the Act for Parish Commons from 1992. Now the minority groups have no representation in the board and this has increased conflicts between different social groups and made it difficult for the parish commons to be a social institution. --Commons and social theory: "The paper will argue that the focus in a study of long-existing commons is modernization or rationalization processes which have taken place within the community. "The rational choice model must be extended with interpretation of human action emphasizing the institutional character of the production and reproduction of meaning in complex social settings. The study has to come close to the history of the community, to the history of the institution, the history of the use of the territory, and the social conventions of different types of use of the territory. This focus is on the construction of meaning, local traditions, legitimacy, and action in important cases. --Methodological implications: "The researcher has to move close to the actual management by studing the actual decision-making process, the development of different cases, and communication between the local council and different interest groups and institutions with in the local community and outside it. The study of the decision-making process must take place over a long period in order to grasp how the boards are able to tackle different situations. The study must be comparative in order to understand the character of the decision-making process within the different councils or boards."

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