Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Problems with formalizing rights in the commons

Political Geography recently published "Grabbing the commons: Forest rights, capital and legal struggle in the Carpathian Mountains", by Stefan Voicu and Monica Vasile. The abstract:

In this paper we show that formalizing communal rights is a process riddled with struggles leading to a partial or total grabbing of commons. Drawing on long-term research and using interviews, surveys, and historical sources, we analyze struggles that emerged from processes of formalizing rights to commons, occurring one century apart in the Carpathian Mountains of Romania. The first wave of formalization, initiated by the state in 1910, institutionalized a model of hybrid commons in which individual rights to communal forests and pastures were understood as inheritable and tradable shares. This generated never-ending contention and a vulnerability to capital, allowing timber companies to grab shares and dispossess rightsholders. The second formalization, post-1989, enabled local communities to regain rights to forests that had been nationalized by the state at the beginning of the socialist rule. However, this resurgence of mountain commons unleashed again a suite of legal struggles, bringing back to life previous vulnerabilities and dispossessions. We argue that the formalization of rights often does not bring clarity and security to commons rightsholders. Instead, it creates a suite of vulnerabilities, ambiguities, and complexity within regulatory texts, begetting the grabbing of the commons.

Barat Roland, Lambs in the autumn in the mountains

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