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Some important elements of common property theory include a focus on individual communities or user groups, local level adjudication of conflicts, local autonomy in rule making, physical harvests, and low levels of articulation with markets. We present a case study of multi-scale collective action around indigenous/community conserved areas (ICCAs) in Oaxaca, Mexico that suggests a modification of these components of common property theory. A multi-community ICCA in Oaxaca demonstrates the importance of inter-community collective action as key link in multi-scale governance, that conflicts are often negotiated in multiple arenas, that rules emerge at multiple scales, and that management for conservation and environmental services implies no physical harvests. Realizing economic gains from ICCAs for strict conservation may require something very different than traditional natural resource management. It requires intense engagement with extensive networks of government and civil society actors and new forms of community and intercommunity collection action, or multi-scale governance. Multi-scale governance is built on trust and social capital at multiple scales and also constitutes collective action at multiple scales. However, processes of multi-scale governance are also necessarily “turbulent” with actors frequently having conflicting values and goals to be negotiated. We present an analytic history of the process of emergence of community and inter-community collective action around strict conservation and examples of internal and external turbulence. We argue that this case study and other literature requires an extensions of the constitutive elements of common property theory.


Originally published in International Journal of the Commons.

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