More a Commons Than a Fictitious Commodity: Tacit Knowledge, Sharing, and Cooperation in Knowledge Governance

Özveren E., Gürpinar E.

Journal of the Knowledge Economy, 2023 (SSCI) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Publication Date: 2023
  • Doi Number: 10.1007/s13132-023-01159-2
  • Journal Name: Journal of the Knowledge Economy
  • Journal Indexes: Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI), Scopus, IBZ Online, ABI/INFORM, EconLit
  • Keywords: Commons, Fictitious commodity, Information, Institutional diversity, Intellectual property rights, Tacit knowledge, OPEN SCIENCE, ECONOMICS, INNOVATION, PROPERTY, CONTROVERSY, INFORMATION, TRAGEDY, MARKETS
  • Middle East Technical University Affiliated: Yes


The conceptualization of knowledge as a commons is spreading fast. A distinct yet interrelated strand of the literature on knowledge argues that knowledge could be the fourth fictitious commodity in Karl Polanyi’s framework. The proliferation of these disparate approaches on the (economic) nature of knowledge not only reflects the rising importance of knowledge in coordinating economic activity but also raises concerns about the over-privatization of knowledge that has become increasingly more visible. The gradual extension of intellectual property rights over almost every type of knowledge production makes scholars reconsider the nature knowledge as an economic good. These concerns point out the inherent limitation of the knowledge as a public good approach which relies on the classic state-versus-market dichotomy. Moving beyond the public good approach has the potential to open new vistas for economics of knowledge if only (i) a broader perspective of the nature of information and knowledge (including tacitness) and (ii) the role of local as well as global communities in which sharing, cooperation, and reciprocity play decisive roles could be integrated into the analytical scheme. Moreover, these extensions are not mutually exclusive. By recourse to them we can show the limits of governance, market-based or otherwise, and the much-needed role of institutional diversity in knowledge production. To this effect, after pointing out the limitations of the knowledge-as-fictitious-commodity argument, we demonstrate the relevance of a tripartite governance framework. We contribute to the ongoing debates on knowledge commons as well as over-privatization of knowledge and emphasize another adverse effect of over-privatization of knowledge that has been overlooked in the literature: the marginalization of reciprocity, sharing, and cooperation that have always been key elements of knowledge governance.