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Sharing the Commons as a 'New Top' of Arnstein's Ladder of Participation

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It has been half a century since Arnstein (1969) theorized her ladder of participation. Today the lower rungs still seem to provide an adequate interpretative key to what is not participation and when participation is only partly accomplished. But, as proposed in this article, over fifty years the top of participation has changed and evolved. In the wake of the economic crisis of 2008, a nascent 'caring society' (Glautier, 2013) began to express the will to design and manage common goods in urban as well rural settings. In 1968, Hardin focused attention on this subject expressing pessimism about what would happen to 'the commons'. It is true that in recent decades many resources have been wasted or consumed by elite groups (Ness, 2019). However, at the same time many people have developed a new collaborative attitude. In the Italian experience, there is increasing interest in contributing to the care of common goods in response to the challenge of 'sharing the administration' (Arena, 1997), as seen in the thousands of Italian 'pacts of collaboration' that have emerged. A 'new top' is proposed for the ladder of participation that would involve those who are governed being active and equal to those who govern, for the first time in history since the French Revolution. As this article explains, the possible 'new top' consists of building new and unexpected alliances among public, private and third sector subjects to take care of common goods through innovative administrative tools in partnership.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2019

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  • Built Environment is published quarterly in March, June, September and December. With an emphasis on crossing disciplinary boundaries and providing global perspective, each issue focuses on a single subject of contemporary interest to practitioners, academics and students working in a wide range of disciplines. Issues are guest-edited by established international experts who not only commission contributions, but also oversee the peer-reviewing process in collaboration with the Editors.

    Subject areas include: architecture; conservation; economic development; environmental planning; health; housing; regeneration; social issues; spatial planning; sustainability; urban design; and transport. All issues include reviews of recent publications.

    The journal is abstracted in Geo Abstracts, Sage Urban Studies Abstracts, and Journal of Planning Literature, and is indexed in the Avery Index to Architectural Publications.

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