Contracting the right to roam

Wallace McNeish, Steve Olivier

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Citation (Scopus)


In recent decades, the emergence of environmental ethics has added extra dimensions of complexity to the leisure political terrain upon which the right to roam is contested. In this chapter, two very different but influential versions of the social contract will be juxtaposed to bring the key arguments into high relief. On the one hand, Hardin’s eco-Hobbesian Tragedy of the Commons (1968/2000) thesis, and on the other, Rawls’ Kant-inspired A Theory of Justice (1971). It will be argued that Hardin’s pessimistic, exclusionary and potentially authoritarian conclusions are incompatible with the allocation of rights and duties in liberal democratic societies. Hardin should therefore be rejected in favour of an interpretative development of Rawls which designates the right to roam as a primary social good that is compatible with a conception of justice as sustainable fairness—an ideal which can be used to inform an inclusive environmentally sensitive leisure citizenship.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Palgrave Handbook of Leisure Theory
EditorsKarl Spracklen, Brett Lashua, Erin Sharpe, Spencer Swain
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan UK
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-137-56479-5
ISBN (Print)978-1-137-56478-8
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Leisure politics
  • Social contract theory
  • Environmental ethics


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