Sustainability and the Civil Commons: Rural Communities in the Age of Globalization


179 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-8020-7999-7
DDC 307.72'0971




Reviewed by Liette Vasseur

Liette Vasseur is associate vice-president of research at Laurentian


This highly theoretical book represents an accumulation of many theories
and concepts related to globalization and sustainability. The first
chapters introduce concepts of globalization and the effects of the
current pressure on rural communities. The remaining chapters summarize
the challenges of sustainable development and describe a
three-dimensional model based on structured power relations,
communication, and values for better understanding sustainability. The
issue of civil commons is not addressed in detail until the second-last

Defining “sustainable development” is no easy task. Sumner’s book
reflects two main views: economics (with growth as the main component)
versus human resources. Many more chapters could have been written on
the other aspects of the definition of sustainability. A utopian project
is viewed as a way to reconcile the human value of sustainability.
However, without fundamental changes, it might be argued that most
outcomes proposed under sustainable globalization may not be possible.

This book is an interesting contribution that attempts (not always
successfully) to connect definitions and theories to practical
orientations for greater sustainability. Unfortunately, by the third
chapter, theory on sustainability and globalization take over and little
attention is paid to how rural communities deal with these issues of
sustainability. Dividing these two components into two books—theory
and practice—would have been a more fruitful strategy.


Sumner, Jennifer., “Sustainability and the Civil Commons: Rural Communities in the Age of Globalization,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed November 29, 2023,