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Calls for Papers

Call for Papers – Special Issue of the Journal of Business Ethics

Published on

The Ethics of the Commons

Submission Deadline: 15 December 2018

Guest editors

 Helen Haugh, University of Cambridge, UK,

Marek Hudon, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium,

Camille Meyer, University of Victoria, Canada,

Ana Maria Peredo, University of Victoria, Canada,

Introduction to the Special Issue

The concept of ‘the commons’ has a long history (Sison & Fontrodona, 2012) and during the last three decades has generated increasing excitement in the scholarly literature. A major factor in the surge of interest has been the work inspired by Elinor Ostrom, Nobel memorial prize in economics sciences laureate for 2009, especially when linked to the economic and social crises that have fostered interest in different ways of organizing economic life. Recovering and implementing the concept of the commons has been hailed by scholars and practitioners as a way of creating new collective wealth (Akrivou & Sison, 2016; Bollier & Helfrich, 2014; Tedmanson et al., 2015), and for addressing what are seen as the societal ills created by neoliberalism (Caffentzis, 2010).

This is a call for submissions to a special issue of the Journal of Business Ethics aimed at providing an overarching perspective on the ethical dimensions and drivers of the phenomenon labelled ‘the commons’. In its broadest sense, ‘the commons’ is understood to refer simply to resources of many kinds, e.g., open access and public goods, where no individual person has the right to exclude others from enjoying their benefits. Ostrom focuses on the common property regime – a tighter concept of the commons wherein some group succeeds in making a ‘common pool resource’ a shared benefit by establishing the right of exclusion from it and managing it in a way that avoids the infamous ‘tragedy of the commons’ (Ostrom, 1990, 1999; Ostrom & Hess, 2008). This special issue particularly welcomes more bounded conceptualization of the commons.

The (re)emergence of a “commons paradigm” (Bollier, 2011) refers explicitly to how civil society organizations enable people to collaborate and share. This paradigm presents a way that is simultaneously novel yet draws also on the deep history of analyzing social practices implemented through cooperation, collective action and solidarity (Peredo et al., 2017)

Collective forms of resource ownership and management are often directed toward the common good in keeping with the ethics of living in a community whose purpose is both individual and collective flourishing (Argandoña, 1998; Haugh, 2007; Melé, 2009, 2012; Peredo & Chrisman, 2006; Sison et al., 2012). In this regard, commons organizations create, transform and legitimize nonprofit and community norms and rules (Bushouse et al., 2016; Marquis & Battilana, 2009; Périlleux & Nyssens, 2017). Some forms of commons require multiple forms of collective action for their management (Ostrom, 1990). These participatory methods generate ethical challenges due to the complexity of their management and collective governance.

Others have drawn attention to the way that new commons are being created in many resources and environments (Fournier, 2013; Meyer & Hudon, 2017), and how commons are being ‘enclosed’ and removed from wider access (Bollier, 2003). The idea of ‘commoning’ has become a central concept in determining how commons are created and recognized as a social phenomenon (Euler, 2015; Fournier, 2013; Linebaugh, 2008). This call seeks papers that examine the ethical landscape of the commons in any and all of these dimensions.

Possible Themes and Topics 

We seek papers that shed light on the ethical foundations and implications of the commons. We welcome original papers from a wide variety of methodological and disciplinary perspectives and invite papers that provide insights into, but not limited to, the following topics:

Topic 1: Conceptualization, Ethics and Rights related to the commons

–       How does ethics shape the definition and conceptualization of commons?

–       How do different ethical theories provide descriptive and normative insights into commons?

–       Property rights, including common property rights, are after all rights. How do the ethical implications of different property regimes compare and influence          entrepreneurship and organizing?

–       For organizations and communities, how do ethical drivers enable collective action in social, environmental and other commons?

Topic 2: Governance of Commons

–       What are the motivations and mechanisms for cooperation and participation in commons governance and management?

–       What are the ethical challenges to and limits of collective action and decision-making in commons organizations?

–       How has the conception, practice and institutionalization of commons evolved over time, and what are the ethical factors that contribute to its evolution              and persistence?

–       How do values and culture regenerate collective practices?

Topic 3: Social and Community Entrepreneurship and Impacts

–       What insights can a study of the commons offer to social and community entrepreneurship research?

–       How is social value created through commons organizations?

–       What are the ethical implications of new commons and new ways of commoning for entrepreneurship?

–       What are the ethical impacts of commons in housing? Food? Environmental activism? Other commons?

Topic 4: The Commons in a Market Society

–       Are there differences in the way that private property and common property regimes influence markets?  If so, what are the ethical implications?

–       Do prevailing conceptions of entrepreneurship impinge on the role of the commons as a means of producing and distributing goods, e.g., by new forms of           enclosure in items such as traditional knowledge, patents, and the human genome?

–       Do commons represent an ethical challenge to capitalist-market/neoliberal political systems?

Submission Process and Deadlines

Authors are encouraged to refer to the Journal of Business Ethics website for instructions on submitting a paper. Submission to the special issue by December 15, 2018 is required through Editorial Manager at: Upon submission, please indicate that your submission is to this Special Issue. For any questions, please contact the guest editors.


Akrivou, K., & Sison, A. J. G. (Eds.). (2016). The Challenges of Capitalism for Virtue Ethics and the Common Good: Interdisciplinary Perspectives. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing.

Argandoña, A. (1998). The Stakeholder Theory and the Common Good. Journal of Business Ethics, 17(9-10), 1093-1102.

Bollier, D. (2003). Silent Theft: The Private Plunder of our Common Wealth. London: Routledge.

Bollier, D. (2011). The Growth of the Commons Paradigm. In C. Hess, & E. Ostrom (Eds.), Understanding Knowledge as a Commons: From Theory to Practice (pp.27-40). Cambridge: The MIT Press.

Bollier, D., & Helfrich, S. (Eds.). (2014). The Wealth of the Commons: A World beyond Market and State. Amherst, MA: Levellers Press.

Bushouse, B. K., Never, B., & Christensen, R. K. (2016). Elinor Ostrom’s Contribution to Nonprofit and Voluntary Action Studies. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 45(4S), 7S-26S.

Caffentzis, G. (2010). The Future of ‘the Commons’: Neoliberalism’s ‘Plan b’ or the Original Disaccumulation of Capital? New Formations, 69(69), 23-41.

Euler, J. (2015). Defining the Commons: The Social Practice of Commoning as Core Determinant. Paper presented to The City as a Commons: Reconceiving Urban Space, Common Goods and City Governance, 1st Thematic IASC Conference on Urban Commons, Bologna, Italy.

Fournier, V. (2013). Commoning: On the Social Organisation of the Commons. M@n@gement, 16(4), 433-453.

Haugh, H. (2007). Community‐led Social Venture Creation. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 31(2), 161-182.

Hess, C., & Ostrom, E. (2011). Understanding Knowledge as a Commons: From Theory to Practice.Cambridge: The MIT Press.

Hudon, M. & Meyer, C. (2016). A Case Study of Microfinance and Community Development Banks in Brazil: Private or Common Goods? Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly. 45(4), 116-133.

Linebaugh, P. (2008). Magna Carta Manifesto: Liberties and Commons for All. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Marquis, C., & Battilana, J. (2009). Acting Globally but Thinking Locally? The Enduring Influence of Local Communities on Organizations. Research in Organizational Behavior, 29, 283-302.

Melé, D. (2009). Integrating Personalism into Virtue-based Business Ethics: The Personalist and the Common Good Principles. Journal of Business Ethics, 88(1), 227-244.

Melé, D. (2012). The Firm as a “Community of Persons”: A Pillar of Humanistic Business Ethos. Journal of Business Ethics, 106(1), 89-101.

Meyer, C., & Hudon, M. (2017). Alternative Organizations in Finance: Commoning in Complementary Currencies. Organization24(5), 629-647.

Ostrom, E. (1990). Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Ostrom, E. (1999). Coping with Tragedies of the Commons. Annual Review of Political Science, 2, 493-535.

Ostrom, E., & Hess, C. (2008). Private and Common Property Rights. Encyclopedia of Law and Economics. Retrieved from

Peredo, A. M., & Chrisman, J. J. (2006). Toward a Theory of Community-Based Enterprise. Academy of Management Review, 31(2), 309-328.

Peredo, A. M. Haugh, H.& McLean, M. (2017) Common property: Uncommon forms of prosocial organizing. Journal of Business Venturing,

Périlleux, A. & Nyssens, M. (2017). Understanding Cooperative Finance as a New Common. Annals of Public and Cooperative Economics 88(2): 155-177.

Sison, A. Hartman, E. & Fontrodona, J. (2012). Guest Editors’ Introduction Reviving Tradition: Virtue and the Common Good in Business and Management. Business Ethics Quarterly, 22, 207-210.

Sison, A. & Fontrodona, J. (2012). The Common Good of the Firm in the Aristotelian-Thomistic Tradition.Business Ethics Quarterly, 22, 211-246.

Tedmanson, D., Essers, C., Dey, P., & Verduyn, K. (2015). An Uncommon Wealth. Transforming the Commons with Purpose, for People and Not for Profit! Journal of Management Inquiry, 24(4), 439-444.