This article considers theories of collective action in relation to the management of communal water resources in Nkayi District, Zimbabwe. Taking a critical view of institutional explanations of common property resource management, it illustrates how the addition of social theory can enrich such approaches. The prevalence of rational choice premises in defining the problem of collective action and the persuasiveness of institutionalism in apparently offering solutions to it is questioned. The article rejects simple evolutionary theorizing about institutions in favour of an embedded approach that allows for complexity, for the social and historical location of collective action and for an examination of the interface between agent and structure. It is argued here that collective management of water supplies does exist but that it is more partial, changeable and evolving and less attributable to single factors than suggested in much of the literature.
Development and Change – Wiley
Published: Mar 1, 2000
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