Edited by Luigino Bruni and Stefano Zamagni
Chapter 37: The common good
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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