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The commons (in Switzerland Allmend , Allmeind or Allmein ), the community hall or Gemeindegut , is a form of joint ownership .

As an agricultural term, common land or " common mark " refers to joint or cooperative property away from the parceled (divided into corridors) agricultural land. Common land is still widespread today in the Alpine region , on the Swedish island of Gotland , occasionally in the northern and southern Black Forest ( Hotzenwald ) and in southern Bavaria , on Hallig Gröde , but especially in rural areas in developing countries.

In a sense that goes beyond agriculture, the term is used in economics, social sciences and information sciences (including common good , knowledge common , tragedy of the common and tragedy of the anti-common ). The English equivalent commons is often used.

The commons is not a legal form within the meaning of applicable German civil law or other applicable codified German law. Only certain forms of organization such as community ownership or co-operative ownership create certain legal positions.


The term originated in the Middle Ages as a Middle High German al (ge) made, almeine or almeide , community hall 'or' common pasture 'and called one in possession of a village community befindliches basic property within a district . Linguistic variants are also Allmeind, Allmande, in parts of South Tyrol Gemoana and in the northwestern Low German ( Lower Saxony ) language area Meent, which in turn refers to the old concept of Meinheit .

The English term commons also refers to specific land use rights ( servitute ) that allow certain farmers, the commoners, to access land in private, crown or common property.

The concept of Trift , such as B. in pasture drift, denotes a land accessible to all or a path that is in principle all-ending. The pasture is mentioned for example in the Old Testament at Ez 48,14-17  LUT .

Common land as a legal form

The common land is that part of the communal property that is not used directly in the interests of the communal administration to cover its expenses, but to which all congregation members have the right to use . The common land consists mostly of immovable property such as paths , the forest , bodies of water for the supply of extinguishing water or pasture land such as the communal meadow , a hut forest or summer pastures in the Alps (alpine pasture / alp) , on which each authorized person can graze a number of farm animals specified according to an agreed key .

The use is mostly limited to community members or generally accessible to the public, as is the case with public paths, wells or the village green : only the latter is common property (a common property in the sense of communal occupation economy ) that has no owner and which can be used freely as a Basic right exists.

There are also rights of authorized users ( commons and commoners in English). They include rights ( servitutes ) such as:

The corresponding rights were mostly limited in type and quantity and were subject to flat-rate or quantified fees, but could not be denied. The property remained with the landlord.

In the cooperative system, the rights of use can be regulated in the respective statutes. The German cooperative law emphasizes “joint business operations”. This is an essential funding purpose that must be granted to all members.

to form

The commons are either used by all members of the community or only by certain specific authorized persons (the real community or community of use ):

  • Use by all parishioners : in this case, it is either used by the whole congregation undivided or it is awarded annually by lots or administered under public authority and only the proceeds are distributed. A typical example of this is the Anger .
  • Use by individual authorized persons : In this case, the common land remains the property of the corporation , but with the special feature that it is not used by all community members, but only by a certain number, usually the owners of certain goods ( farms , farms , in contrast to mere cottages ).

The individual usage shares (parts of the municipality, legal names, Meenten, goods, powers) are generally to be viewed as accessories to the farms in question. These rights of use to the commons are related to the conditions of the old market cooperatives , which did not (and do) not yet have sole ownership of the forest and meadow, but only co-ownership in ideal parts due to farm ownership.

What the forms have in common, however, is that the rights are tied to the community itself or the respective courts (in the sense of a legal person ). Eligibility requires parish membership or the status of head of household . In the law of the Swiss stock corporation , for example, there is the option of extending or restricting the right of use to family members in the statutes.

History and Development

In the early Middle Ages there was a common land in practically every village. It went back to the common property of the old mark cooperative, the "common mark". In northern Germany in particular, common land was of particular importance for farms. Heiden and fens were used for Plagge extraction and - fertilization to intensive cultivation on Esch lands to allow. They were used as pasture or wood. Large raised bogs were used to extract peat .

In Spain, as the reconquest progressed, there were newly settled communes in the areas with free men, to whose appointment the neighbors came together. From this arose a property structure of significant ejido areas (field, corridor and forest communities) that has been preserved to this day and which was cultivated and used by the municipalities jointly. In the English-speaking countries, a large part of the land was and is owned by the Crown (see Crown Land (Canada) ). The Commons made it possible to acquire appropriate usage rights.

In the 15th and 16th centuries, secular rulers in Germany and England appropriated common land in many cases (common land robbery), which was an important reason for the German peasant war . In Switzerland, due to the population increase in the 15th century, the first common divisions took place, and in the 16th and 17th centuries the municipalities made extensive changes to assigning rights of use ( rights or legal names ) to the villagers , which increasingly turned the municipal property into separate property .

An even greater reduction in the size of the commons came about through claims by Markkötter , who since the beginning of modern times tried to gain land ownership by clearing commons. In England, the Enclosure movement drove the commercialization of British agriculture and became an important condition for the industrial revolution . The loss of the common land led to economic impairment and impoverishment of small farmers. From the impoverished rural population, which was increasing due to population growth, the workers in the fast-growing northern English industrial cities were recruited.

Late 19th century was often a division of the commons (see also by the intensification of agriculture brand division , separation caused or Verkoppelung), which legally was nothing but complete sale of the property of the corporation to the church members and an early form of land consolidation led .

The original legal property of the commons has been preserved in isolated cases in southern Germany as well as in the Alpine regions of Austria and Switzerland, while in most cases the commons become the property of the individual beneficiaries or the political community or that of a special community ( real , neighboring, old -, Mark-, Bürgergemeinde ) has passed.

Because in many cases the traditional management rules for common land could not be reconciled with modern agricultural methods, the economic use of common land largely declined in the 20th century. Often z. B. used for the creation of new building or industrial areas or sports facilities.

Modern commons

In the search for strategies to cope with the ecological crises of the 21st century, common land management came back into the public eye. At the same time, commons and commons are increasingly being privatized in the wake of the financial crisis. Michael Hudson from the University of Missouri criticizes the fact that private finance companies are increasingly abandoning the lending business and buying up natural resources, infrastructures and common goods (e.g. water, islands, but also educational institutions) in the austerity policies of the World Bank and IMF particularly affected states, which have to surrender them at unfavorable conditions. Financial investors can draw high permanent pensions from this. This can be viewed as a modern form of commons stealing .

Alpine cooperatives

Commons still exist in the entire Alpine and foothills of the Alps, for example in Switzerland in the Reiti commons corporation in Horgen on Lake Zurich. These commons are partly organized under private law, partly (as corporation communities ) under public law. Some alpine commons (Allmeinden) include not only alpine pastures and forests but also real estate, such as the Oberallmeindkorporation Schwyz . In the case of common areas that include alpine pastures, the farmers involved have the right to graze their cattle in accordance with certain rules of use. Use is granted according to cow rights . A cow right means that the farmer is allowed to graze a cow on it. The pasture and drift paths , which lead to the various agricultural areas of the farmers, are also mostly common property. There are also communal pastures with cow rights in Fusine , northern Italy .

Common pastures

In Germany today (2010) such exist, for example, in the southern Hotzenwald around the municipality of Ibach and in southern Bavaria.

In North America , the Buffalo Commons project for the re-distribution of the American bison in the Great Plains is based on the principle of common land management.

The concept of the commons in the figurative sense

The term is also used in an expanded form in economics, social sciences and computer science:

  • In microeconomics, for example, certain goods are generally referred to as commons .
  • As a knowledge commons , English commons is called common good of modern information society.
  • The tragedy of the commons ( the tragedy of the commons ) leads to overuse of a resource if you have the (de facto) right to many owners to use the resource, there are no effective usage rules and none the (de facto) law has others from using to exclude.
  • The tragedy of the anti-commons ( the tragedy of the anti commons ) results in lower use of a resource when many owners have the right to exclude others from using the resources and has no effective use of privilege.

The English term Tragedy of the Commons is attributed, among other things, to considerations by William Forster Lloyd (1795–1852) on population development.

After Joachim Radkau he is part of a whole series of scientists and agrarian reformers who have been discussing an alleged common land problem since the 18th century and using it as an example for the abolition of traditional forms of common ownership. The microbiologist and ecologist Garrett Hardin expanded the term in 1968 in an essay for the journal Science , also under the title The Tragedy of the Commons . According to Hardin, the (German) tragedy of the commons would be an inevitable fate of mankind if only one were to look for a technological solution. In order to avoid this fate, one must rather change one's perspective and no longer regard and approach the problem as individual individuals, but also as a community. In this essay, Hardin leaves open whether privatization or state regulation of the commons is the better solution for the community. Hardin, who puts himself in the Robert Malthus tradition , saw the term as a metaphor for overpopulation and called for global birth control and rigid international restrictions, for example on fishing. In 1994 Hardin relativized his criticism of the commons in the article The Tragedy of the Unmanaged Commons .

Radkau sees a significantly different use of the common land example in Hardin. Hardin no longer demands private access to previously jointly managed goods. Conversely, it was about an increased state or international regulation of common goods on a global level (an “ecological dictatorship” in Radkau).

The model concept hardly goes into both forms of the actual common land economy. This is ecologically very interesting (especially with a certain overgrazing ) and characterized by a great diversity of species. The commons economy is now proceeding sustainably with scientifically founded strategies. According to Radkau, the real 'tragedy of the commons' was the call for an “economic”, i.e. uninhibited use of the commons, which has also occurred in modern times and, in the sense of a “self-fulfilling prophecy”, had at times crisis-ridden effects.

Modern forms of commons regulation, directly related to the resource landscape as well as in the figurative, social-scientific sense, are meanwhile the subject of international research projects as well as the investigation of action and process patterns, for example in psychology. Elinor Ostrom received the 2009 Nobel Prize for Economics together with Oliver E. Williamson . Ostrom showed "how common property of user organizations can be successfully managed".

In development policy, using the example of the agricultural upheaval in China, under the catchphrase “the tragedy of the commons revisited”, instead of a strict model-like distinction between private, state or common property and completely free availability, both historical and current transitional forms and co-management are identified same recommended.

See also




Web links

Wiktionary: common land  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Martin Born: Geography of the rural settlements. 1977, ISBN 3-443-07104-X , p. 34.
  2. Proof in the written source of the Middle Ages
  3. Lexicon entry on ( Memento from May 3, 2008 in the Internet Archive )
  4. ^ Bernd Andreae : Agriculturalography. Structural zones and types of farms in world agriculture. De Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1977, ISBN 9783110085594 , pp. 69 ff. And 295 f.
  5. Klaus Müller: Commentary on the law relating to trade and business cooperatives. Bielefeld 1976, p. 86 ff.
  6. see Article 627 in the Code of Obligations
  7. a b Martin Born: Geography of the rural settlements. 1977, ISBN 3-443-07104-X , p. 64.
  9. Historical Lexicon of Switzerland. Volume I, p. 199.
  10. Michael Hudson: The Bubble and Beyond. Islet 2012, ISBN 978-3-9814842-0-5 .
  11. Bernd Lutterbeck: Build the knowledge society! In: Changes in regulatory systems in the information society. Gift of friend for Alfred Büllesbach. Johann Bizer, Bernd Lutterbeck, Jochen Rieß (Editor), Stuttgart 2002 (PDF)
  12. James Boyle: The Public Domain. Enclosing the Commons of the Mind. Yale University Press, Yale 2008.
  13. ^ Garrett Hardin: The Tragedy of the Commons . Ed .: Science. Vol. 162, No. 3859 , December 13, 1968, p. 1243–1248 , doi : 10.1126 / science.162.3859.1243 ( online [accessed August 30, 2014]).
  14. Michael A. Heller: The Tragedy of the Anticommons. Property in the Transition from Marx to Markets. In: Harvard Law Review. Vol. 111 (1998), p. 622.
  15. ^ William Forster Lloyd: Two Lectures on the Checks to Population. Oxford University Press, Oxford, England 1833.
  16. a b c d Joachim Radkau: Nature and Power, A world history of the environment. CH Beck, 2002, ISBN 3-406-48655-X .
  17. ^ Garret Hardin: The Tragedy of the Commons. In: Science. 162 (1968) pp. 1243-1248.
  18. ^ Garrett Hardin: The Tragedy of the Commons . In: Science . tape 162 , no. 3859 , December 13, 1968, ISSN  0036-8075 , p. 1243–1248 , doi : 10.1126 / science.162.3859.1243 , PMID 5699198 ( [accessed May 4, 2018]).
  19. Yanling Guo: Hardin and his "The Tragedy of the Commons" . In: LinkedIn . April 30, 2018 ( [accessed May 4, 2018]).
  20. ^ Garrett Hardin: The Feast of Malthus Living within limits. In: THE SOCIAL CONTRACT. Spring 1998, pp. 181-187. (PDF)
  21. ^ Garrett Hardin: The Tragedy of the Unmanaged Commons. In: Trends in Ecology & Evolution. Vol. 9, No. 5 (1994), p. 199.
  22. Raimund Rodewald et al: The application of the principle of sustainable development. 2003.
  23. Vera Christine Lenhard, Raimund Rodewald: Sustainable landscape development with the help of institutional resource regimes. In: GAIA - Ecological Perspectives for Science and Society. Volume 9, Number 1, March 2000, pp. 50-57.
  24. ^ Andreas M. Ernst, Andrea Bender, Renate Eisentraut, Stefan Seitz: Process pattern of commons regulation: The role of strategies, information and institutions - Final report - April 2001. Research Reports Institute of Psychology University of Freiburg Germany
  25. ^ Tony Banks: Property Rights Reform in Rangeland China: Dilemmas On the Road to the Household Ranch. In: World development. Vol. 31, No. 12, Massey University, Palmerston North 2003, pp. 2129-2142.
  26. Review: Deutschlandfunk, Sonja Ernst: Andruck. August 20, 2012, , August 25, 2012.