Mathias Nebel

Published On


Page Range

pp. 29-56

Print Length

27 pages

1. The Theoretical Framework

Common Goods and Systems of Common Goods

Mathias Nebel develops in this chapter the theoretical foundation of a common good approach to development. Building on Foucault, Arendt, Bourdieu, Giddens, Oström, Taylor, and Riordan, he proposes to understand the common good from the perspective of the interactions structuring our communal life. The chapter takes up many of the Antique and Medieval insights of the notion but then reframes the concept from the perspective of a philosophy of action. This is actually the main shift in his approach to the concept. He argues that the common good is essentially linked to the way our social interactions are generated and thrive. A common good perspective on society is therefore neither totalitarian nor conservative. On the contrary, it is creative, capable of novelty and inclusiveness; it embraces not only plurality, justice and law, but also the purpose of the good life in politics.
In the interest of pedagogical clarity, the chapter structures its theoretical insights around a vocabulary of the common good, that will then be coherently used by all other articles in this book. He distinguishes between the many specific and limited common goods existing in a society and coins the expression nexus of common goods to explain the dynamic system of specific common goods in a given society. Both are differentiated from the universal common good, which is in itself a goal and a task, and whose content is our common humanity.