Chaos on the Commons: Considering the Implications of Nonequilibrium Theory for Common Property Research


"The rapidly emerging 'new science' of nonequilibrium systems theory may offer common property researchers and scholars an exciting alternative ontology from which to consider the development, behavior and efficacy of common property systems. Deriving from the dynamical holism of quantum physics, nonequilibrium theory engages the spontaneity, chaos, interrelatedness and interconnectedness of complex natural systems, such as common property regimes, and considers these system behaviors temporally. Viewing system evolution, or iteration, in this way permits researchers to assess the entire range of system behavior from episodes of equilibrium to episodes of chaotic or unpredictable behavior which suggest that the system is self-organizing and adapting to environmental stimuli. This study explores the connections between common property scholarship and the recent theoretical developments in nonequilibrium analysis. Using the Navaho Indian Irrigation Project as a case study, this paper explores the aspects of nonequilibrium theory which may be instructive in an expanded vision of common property research. Nonequilibrium theory holds that the behavior of all natural systems, of which human systems such as common property regimes are clearly a part, can be understood differently, and more completely when the tools and concepts of nonequilibrium theory are employed. After presenting the theoretical elements of nonequilibrium theory, the paper turns to an examination of the developmental history of the Navajo Indian Irrigation Project from a nonequilibrium perspective. The paper concludes with a discussion of the implications of nonequilibrium theory for common property research scholarship."



irrigation, agriculture, common pool resources--theory, Navajo (North American people), IASC