Polycentricity and Citizenship in Environmental Governance

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Cambridge University Press


"This chapter is concerned with relationships between governance arrangements and environmental citizenship, and with the challenges of establishing and sustaining governance conducive to this citizenship. The significance of this concern is illustrated by Australian experiences with governance arrangements seeking to promote citizenship among rural landholders in natural resources conservation. In considering this concern we take our lead from a line of thinking about polycentric governance that was developed by Vincent Ostrom, who drew in turn from de Tocqueville’s early 19th century analysis of the American democratic ‘experiment’. Ostrom identified ‘the way people think and relate to one another’ (pertaining to the meta-constitutional level of analysis in the Institutional Analysis and Development framework) as fundamentally significant for meeting the challenges of achieving polycentric governance capable of promoting citizenship, and also the citizenship required to sustain polycentric governance. Key insights drawn by Ostrom regarding the meta-constitutional conditions required for forms of polycentric governance conducive to citizenship are reviewed in this chapter to suggest areas for continuing research into the viability of self-governing polycentric orders. Progress in empirical investigation of relationships between polycentric governance and environmental citizenship is reviewed. One relationship of this kind is illustrated with reference to attempts at policy reform towards environmental watering in Australia’s Murray-Darling Basin."



citizenship, polycentricity, polycentric governance, environmental governance, civic virtue, democracy, self-governance, water governance, subsidiarity, community-based governance, community-based conservation