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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2013

An analytical framework for common-pool resource-large technical system (CPR-LTS) constellations

Blomkvist, Pär; Larsson, Jesper


This paper introduces an analytical framework for a special phenomenon: when a common-pool resource (CPR) institution and a large technical system (LTS) are connected and mutually interdependent. The CPR in this case is a node managed by its appropriators within a centrally planned and managed system; here named CPR-LTS constellations. Our framework is empirically derived from two historical investigations of CPR institutions within two LTSs, the agricultural-technical system and the road transport system of Sweden. By comparing similarities and differences it is possible to identify paths to successes and failures. To understand why one survived and the other disappeared we connect Elinor Ostrom's theories about management of CPRs with Thomas P. Hughes's theories about LTSs. We are proposing a framework that can bridge the gap between theories about management of CPRs and LTSs. By combining the two theories it should be possible to better understand how small-scale producers using bottom-up CPRs can be linked to top-down LTSs. We will argue that to fit within an LTS, a CPR needs alignment between different parts or components within the constellation/system and alignment with other systems and institutions in society. We propose three analytical levels to deal with the phenomenon of aligning a CPR project to an existing, large sociotechnical system:1. Local alignment (CPR): How are CPRs organized and managed at local sites?2. Sociotechnical alignment (CPR-LTS): How are CPRs connected to the sociotechnical system?3. Contextual alignment: How are CPR-LTS constellations aligned with neighboring institutions and systems in society?Our work indicates that for successful management of a CPR-LTS constellation it is important that the CPR be included in legislation and that government agencies support the CPR in alignment with the LTS. Legislators must recognize the CPR-part in the CPR-LTS constellation so that its institutional body is firmly established in society. In this study, we have used the framework ex-post; however, we anticipate that the framework could be a diagnostic tool ex-ante for CPR-LTS constellations.


Common pool resources; commons; collective action

Published in

International Journal of the Commons
2013, Volume: 7, number: 1, pages: 113-139

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalization Studies)
    Economic History
    History of Technology

    Publication identifier


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