International Review of Environmental and Resource Economics > Vol 16 > Issue 2

Do Tragedy Theories Explain Satoyama's Degradation and Institutional Evolution in Japan?

Ashutosh Sarker, Department of Economics, Faculty of Arts, University of Alberta, Canada,
Suggested Citation
Ashutosh Sarker (2022), "Do Tragedy Theories Explain Satoyama's Degradation and Institutional Evolution in Japan?", International Review of Environmental and Resource Economics: Vol. 16: No. 2, pp 281-307.

Publication Date: 23 Nov 2022
© 2022 A. Sarker
JEL Codes: Q57O13O17P28H40
Tragedycommonsanticommonssatoyamacollective actionpublic goodspolitical economyJapan


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In this article:
1 Introduction 
2 Commons, Anticommons, and their Relationship 
3 Tragedies of the Commons and Anticommons 
4 Satoyama as Traditional and New Commons 
5 Tragedies in the Satoyama Commons 
6 Conclusion 


The tragedy of the commons theory refers to the overuse of the commons that can result in the degradation of the commons at local, national, and global levels. The tragedy of the anticommons theory holds that the underuse of the commons also leads to its degradation at all levels. In Japan, a once-populated satoyama (mountain landscape) has transformed into a depopulated and degraded landscape. Extant studies conceptualize the present-day satoyama as a new commons and apply the two widely popular tragedy theories to illustrate its resource degradation and institutional evolution. This article demonstrates that the present-day satoyama can be viewed as a new commons, but from an overly generic perspective, whereas the two theories are nearly irrelevant when analyzing its degradation and institutional evolution. Contrary to existing studies, neither overuse nor underuse occurs in the present-day satoyama. The satoyama experiences resource underutilization rather than resource underuse or overuse.