Edited by Luigino Bruni and Stefano Zamagni
Chapter 30: Relational goods
Imagine an economy where children have at their disposal agreeable gardens, where adults own comfortable houses, and jobs are well-paid. Does it make any difference if children play alone or with mates, adults have good or bad relationships with relatives and neighbours, and the social climate on the job is pleasant or detestable? No difference, according to conventional national accounting. Instead, not only introspection, but also empirical research indicates that people value such details considerably. How can this inconsistency be reconciled? One possible strategy is to recognize that GDP or aggregate consumption measure amounts of goods (respectively, produced and consumed), not citizen well-being. Another is to observe that those considered in national accounting, and more generally in economic analyses, are only a subset of the goods people draw benefit from; so new categories of goods must be taken into consideration, beside conventional ones. The concept of relational good fits into the latter scientific strategy. The expression first appeared in contemporary social sciences literature in the late 1980s in the writings of a few authors, apparently unconnected and belonging to different disciplines – Pierpaolo Donati, a sociologist, and Martha Nussbaum, a philosopher, in 1986; Benedetto Gui, an economist, in 1987; Carole Uhlaner, a political scientist, in 1989.
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