In many traditional societies, certain resources are held in common, with their use and disposition controlled by the community collectively. Such common-pool resources have come to play a significant element in programs of environmental preservation in Asia, and for this reason historical changes in arrangements for controlling them are of considerable importance. Through case studies from Japan, Korea, Thailand, India and Bhutan, Community, Commons and Natural Resource Management in Asia examines attitudes toward common-pool resources in different local contexts, with a particular emphasis on forests and policies relating to environmental conservation. The authors are specialists on the regions they study who use historical documents in local languages along with data collected during long-term fieldwork. Their conclusions raise questions about understandings of natural property resources based on dichotomous frameworks like "modern versus traditional societies", "state versus community" and "commercialization versus subsistence economies". The case studies indicate that in pre-modern and early modern Asia natural resources were frequently under free-access regimes, and that where systems of control existed, subsequent institutional changes involved a variety of sequences that cannot be summarized readily within a simple modernist framework.
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Haruka Yanagisawa is Professor Emeritus at the University of Tokyo, Japan. He was awarded the Okita Memorial Prize for International Development Research in 2014.