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Building Trust to Solve Commons Dilemmas: Taking Small Steps to Test an Evolving Theory of Collective Action

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Type: Working Paper
Author: Ostrom, Elinor
Date: 2008
Series: W08-23
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/4200
Sector: Social Organization
Subject(s): commons
collective action
Abstract: "Problems of the commons exist in a wide variety of settings ranging in size and complexity from the family (e.g., the household budget and the kitchen sink) to the global scale (e.g., loss of biodiversity and global warming). Game theory is a useful theoretical tool for representing a simplified, core social dilemma facing a set of individuals sharing a commons. Game theorists, who assume that individuals base decisions on immediate returns to self, frequently use the Prisoners' Dilemma game to represent the problem of the commons. The individuals in such a game are assumed to have complete information about the strategy space they face and the outcomes that will be obtained depending on their own and others' actions. On the other hand, the pure theory is about individuals who do not know one another, do not share a common history, and cannot communicate with one another. In this model, game theory predicts that individuals jointly using a commons will overharvest, leading to Hardin's 'Tragedy of the Commons.'"

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