Common Goods and Private Profits: Traditional and Modern Communal Land Management in Portugal


"In the paper, I describe the evolution of communal land management systems in Northern Portugal. I will explain, that in earlier studies of these systems, the image prevailed of harmonious and internally equal communities, although even then there was already evidence of a less idyllic reality. I will proceed with a case study of 'traditional' management arrangements in a parish in northern Portugal. It will appear that the vast communal areas were used principally by the wealthier farmers in the parish. Further, I will discuss the effect of two interventions in the commons which were directed at their dissolution: partitioning and reforestation of parts of the commons. Each intervention is related to a different view on property. The first defends privatization, and the second nationalization of communal land. It will appear that the privatization process was influenced heavily by existing social inequity, and on its turn reinforced the process of social differentiation. Nationalization for reforestation unwillingly served to save communal property, when radical changes in national politics led to the restoration of the nationalized communal lands. The post-revolutionary government designed a new management structure, which will be discussed in the last section of the paper. It will appear that within this modern system it still is difficult to balance public goods with private profits."



IASC, land tenure and use, tragedy of the commons, equity