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Handbook on the Economics of Reciprocity and Social Enterprise

Handbook on the Economics of Reciprocity and Social Enterprise

Elgar original reference

Edited by Luigino Bruni and Stefano Zamagni

The recent era of economic turbulence has generated a growing enthusiasm for an increase in new and original economic insights based around the concepts of reciprocity and social enterprise. This stimulating and thought-provoking Handbook not only encourages and supports this growth, but also emphasises and expands upon new topics and issues within the economics discourse.

Chapter 37: The common good

Antonio Argandoña

Subjects: economics and finance, behavioural and experimental economics, economic psychology, public sector economics, politics and public policy, social entrepreneurship, social policy and sociology, economics of social policy


In current ethical and political discourse, the common good is often a rhetorical concept, defined in very diverse ways. It had a prominent place in the political and social philosophy of Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas, lost ground when Western philosophy took an individualistic turn (and with the predominance of multiculturalism, which excludes any unitary conception of the good) but continued to be one of the main pillars of Catholic social teaching (Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, 2004, no. 160). It returned to relevance in view of the modern manifestations of totalitarianism and other developments in recent decades, as a response to questions such as: is it possible to have a politics founded on a universal morality? Can there be a univocal notion of good in a multicultural world? Is a welfare state that combines economic prosperity with equality viable? In Catholic social teaching the common good is defined as ‘the sum total of social conditions which allow people, either as groups or as individuals, to reach their fulfillment more fully and more easily’ (Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, 2004, no. 164). This is a widely accepted definition that we can take as a starting point.

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