The devil in the number: Rethinking Garrett Hardin’s The tragedy of the
commons and global overpopulation crisis
Critiques about the misconstrued thesis of Garrett Hardin’s (1968)
classic essay entitled The Tragedy of the Commons are well
documented. However, little is known of the remote and proximate causes
of the pejorative confusion about the vital essay. This article engages
the discursive reconstruction of the thesis from the management of the
commons to the original intent about the unscrupulousness of unchecked
population growth as a critical factor to the looming collapse of the
earth. Deploying an eloquent metaphor, the devil in the number,
the article reinvents the illogic of overpopulating the world while
simultaneously pursuing the technocratic solutions to nature’s burden.
The article reports four marked factors that swayed perception away from
Hardin’s thesis. The significance of Hardin’s essay for the overburdened
ecosystem as the harbinger for the socio-economic and governance crisis
across the global divides is also discussed.