Too Many Cooks Spoil the Broth: Toward a Theory for How the Tragedy of the Anticommons Emerges in Organizations


In organizations, conflict revolves around the use of shared resources. Research on property rights, territoriality, and social dilemmas suggests that to reduce such conflict, organizations could facilitate the psychological privatization of commons resources. We introduce a model that helps understand how psychologically privatizing organizational commons resources—to prevent the overuse problem of the tragedy of the commons (Hardin, G. Science, 162, 1968, 1243)—can lead to the emergence of another resource dilemma. We develop a model that illustrates how resource complexity and group complexity increase psychological marking and defending behaviors. These behaviors potentially lead to a problem of resource underuse—a tragedy of the anticommons (Heller, M. A. Harvard Law Review, 111, 1998, 621)—in organizational settings. The conceptual model, integrating insights from research on property rights, territoriality, and social dilemmas with law and social psychology, provides a bottom‐up behavioral explanation of the emergence of the tragedy of the anticommons in organizations and outlines opportunities for future research.

Keywords: cooperation, social dilemmas, tragedy of the commons, anticommons resource dilemma




Published on
21 Dec 2019
Peer Reviewed