Political economy and ecology of the commons

Political economy and ecology of the commons

Instructors:S. Barca, J. Caldas, L. Centemeri, U. Mattei

This workshop will address aspects of the 'question of the commons' from multiple disciplinary perspectives, including: law studies, political economy, environmental sociology and environmental history. The 'commons' concept has witnessed a resurgence in contemporary public debates and scholarship – epitomized by Elinor Ostrom's reception of the Nobel prize in economics in 2009.

Such recognition of the existence of a third way between private and public property – and ideally between capitalist and socialist regimes – is an important starting point for a deeper understanding of what 'the commons' are and how they work in different contexts. As regards political ecology, this is an indeed crucial terrain of analysis, especially considering the long-term success of the 'tragedy of the commons' discourse in environmental policies and in common-sense understandings of the ecological crisis.

The workshop will thus be developed along two lines: it will offer a discussion of both the theoretical and the empirical bases for a renewed formulation of the 'commons' concept in environmental terms, including issues of legal recognition, collective choice dilemmas and self-government. At the same time, it will analyze the material and symbolic processes of annihilation of the commons, and the power of property rights discourses in legitimating dispossessions and enclosures in different historical and spatial contexts.


  • Jose Caldas Lecture

  • Jose Caldas Lecture Q&A

  • Santiago Gorostiza and Marien Gonzalez Hidalgo

  • Stefania Barca Presentation

  • Stefania Barca Q&A