Global Commons Global Commons
An Introduction


Susan J. Buck
Format: Soft Cover
Length: 239 pages
Publisher: Island Press
ISBN: 1559635517
Copyright: 1998

Vast areas of valuable resources unfettered by legal rights have, for centuries, been the central target of human exploitation and appropriation. The global commons – Antarctica, the high seas and deep seabed minerals, the atmosphere, and space – have remained exceptions only because access has been difficult or impossible, and the technology for successful extraction has been lacking. Now, technology has caught up with desire, and management regimes are needed to guide human use of these important resource domains.

In The Global Commons, Susan Buck considers the history of human interactions with each of the global commons areas and provides a concise yet thorough account of the evolution of management regimes for each area. She explains historical underpinnings of international law, examines the stakeholders involved, and discusses current policy and problems associated with it.

Buck applies key analytical concepts drawn from institutional analysis and regime theory to examine how legal and political concerns have affected the evolution of management regimes for the global commons. She presents in-depth case studies of each of the four regimes, outlines the historical evolution of the commons (development of interest in exploiting the resource domain, conflicts among nations over the use of the commons, and efforts to design institutions to control access to the domains and to regulate their use), and concludes with a description of the management regime that eventually emerged from the informal and formal negotiations.

The Global Commons provides a clear, useful introduction to the subject that will be of interest to general readers as well as to students in international relations and international environmental law, and in environmental law and policy generally.


“The Global Commons is a book of high quality and through scholarship. The ideas are presented clearly, characterized by sophisticated analogies of historical depth. I regard it as the definitive treatment of the governance of the global commons.”
-- Lynton K. Caldwell, Arthur F. Bentley Professor Emeritus of Political Science and Professor of Public and Environmental Affairs, Indiana University

“Sustaining global environmental resources will be the great challenge of the 21st century. The Global Commons brings a new perspective to international environmental issues. Susan Buck has created a scholarly and readable book that richly illuminates the historical evolution, scientific uncertainty, and political complexity of sustaining shared resources in an increasingly integrated world.”
-- Susan Hanna, Professor of Marine Economics, Oregon State University

About the Author

Susan J. Buck is associate professor of political science at the University of North Carolina and the author of Understanding Environmental Administration and Law.

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