One of the classic problems in social science is known as 'the dilemma of the commons', in which land, water, and other resources held jointly by social or economic segments tend to be depleted sooner and to a greater extent than privately held assets. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, many aspects of western European society changed fundamentally, including the abolition of common-property rights, which in itself was related to social and economic shifts in that same society. The Dilemma of the Commoners intends to put the debate on commons, commoners, and the disappearance of both throughout early modern and modern northwestern Europe in a new light, through new approaches and innovative methodologies. Tine De Moor aims to link the historical debate about the long-term evolution of commons to the present-day debates on common-pool resources, as well as touching upon various disciplines within the social sciences that work on commons issues.
1. The emergence of commons and other forms of institutions for collective action in western Europe from the late Middle Ages onwards
2. Common land and common rights in Flanders
3. From rules to practice: case description, sources and methodology
4. The choices of the commoners: understanding utility, efficiency and equity on the commons through the behavior of the commoners
5. Dealing with dilemmas: conclusions
6. Epilogue: the revenge of history? The return of the homo cooperans in present-day western European countries
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Tine De Moor is Professor of 'Institutions for Collective Action in Historical Perspective' at Utrecht University. She has published in various journals on a variety of topics in social and economic history, but most extensively on commons in northwestern Europe. She has won several prizes for her research, including the Prize for the Best Dissertation in the Category 'Medieval and Early Modern Period' of the International Economic History Association. She is also an elected member of the executive board of the International Association for the Study of the Commons (IASC) and the founder, former editor-in-chief, and member of the editorial board of the International Journal of the Commons.