The real tragedy of the commons
: the absence of suitable institutions in English law to secure mutual self-interest commons

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The tragedy of the commons thesis is used to discredit the viability of communal property. However, contrary to that thesis, communal property, and the mutual self-interest common specifically, is in fact an important species of property that English law should facilitate. To that end, this project establishes that the real tragedy of the commons is the absence of suitable institutions that can be used to secure mutual self-interest commons in English law. 
This project continues and extends a study undertaken by Clarke in 2006 (Creating New Commons: Recognition of Communal Land Rights within a Private Property Framework (2006) 59(1) Current Legal Problems 319). In that study, Clarke considered the strengths and weaknesses of using the trust, company, commons registration and village green registration as methods of securing mutual self-interest commons. This project expands the analysis of those legal institutions and also considers the use of unincorporated associations, co-operative and community benefit societies and planning law. 
By drawing on commons scholarship, eight key characteristics of a mutual self-interest common are identified. Each legal institution is then tested against the eight characteristics to assess the degree to which those characteristics are exhibited. The conclusion of this project is that none of the institutions tested exhibit the eight characteristics to a satisfactory degree, and English law does not adequately facilitate mutual self-interest commons.
Date of Award1 Jul 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorLeslie Turano Taylor (Supervisor) & Aruna Nair (Supervisor)

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