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Balancing Accuracy and Meaning in Common-Pool Resource Theory

Michael Cox, School of Public and Environmental Affairs, Indiana University; Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis, Indiana University

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Abstract

Common-pool resources are managed in complex environments that are amenable to understanding, analysis, and management at multiple levels. This paper develops a heuristic criterion to identify the costs and benefits of adopting various levels of analysis when constructing theory for common-pool resource management. It argues that there is no single optimal level for such analysis. Instead, a trade-off is posed where theories at higher levels tend to be more accurate but less meaningful than theories at lower levels.

Key words

common-pool resources; complexity; institutional analysis; scale
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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087