|Neighborhood Rules: Natural Resources, Belonging and Regulation in Northern Spain before 1850|
|Pre-modern Europeans could avail themselves of a broad and variegated set of institutions for collective action such as guilds, commons, fraternities and waterboards. All these institutions used collective action as a method to create economies of scale and to avoid risksóboth natural and market-related, and to restrict outsiders from accessing scarce resources. Commons were created for the collective management and use of natural resources and could limit the impact of harvest failures due to unpredictable weather, floods, or diseases, while on the other hand they saved on investments in, for example, fencing and drainage systems. Understanding the regulations of institutions for collective action is a key-aspect of the links between macro-social-economic changes and the day-to-day functioning of those institutions. First of all, the evolution of rules and sanctions over time can often be read as a reaction to external changes. What is written down in terms of rules governing such aspects as access, use, and management, and how misbehaviour is punished, defines the limits of the behavior of the members of an institution. Secondly, institutions can also influence the economy and society, in particular if they manage to survive long periods of time. The resilience of institutions has been attributed by political scientists and sociologists to factors such as self-governance and political embeddedness. Other factors which need to be taken into account in order to understand collective action institutions, include the property rights regimes within which they function, and the cultural context, particularly conceptions of the correct use of natural resources. Finding out how these institutions were regulated on the basis of these and other factors, will increase our understanding of what makes an institution resilient. The interplay across time between property rights, management institutions and cultural change will form a key feature of our longitudinal analysis.
This paper would like to explore these relations through some case studies refering to rural communities in Northern Spain.|