Natural Resource Management is increasingly paying attention to participatory forms of governance, devolving authority and decision-making power to communities and community-based organizations. Scientific research on Natural Resource Management has been approached from a variety of theoretical perspectives. Many of these address the institutional arrangements that communities develop in order to manage natural resources. This focus on institutional evolution and design entails attention for the relations between people in and between different organizations. The shift to participatory forms of governance has placed even more emphasis on the political dimension of natural resource management and on issues such as institutional design, leadership, transparency, knowledge/ power and justice.  In this article we investigate the value and utility of Machiavelli’s work for Community-Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM). Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527), the renaissance writer and self- professed founder of modern political theory, drew upon his own observations as a Florentine diplomat and the insights of ancient writers to investigate the ideal role of the citizen in governance. We argue that many of his insights offer valuable insights for the contemporary debates about community-based natural-resource management. We made a selection of five topics derived from literature on Natural Resource Management: (1) Law and Policy, (2) Justice, (3) Participation, (4) Transparency, and (5) Leadership and management. We use Machiavelli’s work to analyze these topics and embed the results in a narrative intended to lead into the final conclusions, where the overarching theme of natural resource management for the common good is considered. Machiavelli’s focus on practical realities produces new, sometimes unsettling, insights. We conclude that this focus helps to understand the development and performance of management regimes and their consequences and that institutional design should be seen as an ongoing process, which requires a constant adaptation of these institutions.

The paper is published in Ethics, Policy & Environment

It can also be downloaded from Researchgate:

Van Assche, K., R. Beunen & M. Duineveld  (2016) Citizens, leaders and the common good in a world of necessity and scarcity: Machiavellian lessons for Community-Based Natural Resource Management. Ethics, Policy & Environment 19 (1): 19-36.