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Common Good

  1. Jane Mansbridge

Published Online: 1 FEB 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9781444367072.wbiee608

The International Encyclopedia of Ethics

How to Cite

Mansbridge, J. 2013. Common Good. The International Encyclopedia of Ethics. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 1 FEB 2013


The common good has traditionally been the keystone of normative political theory, but its meaning has also been contested. The balance between different meanings has changed over time, with aggregative meanings (i.e., the common good as the sum of individual goods) becoming more frequent from the eighteenth century on. In the twentieth century, empirical social scientists joined some philosophers to argue both that a single conception of the common good was inappropriate for a pluralist society and that the common good could not be known. In response, deliberative theorists, civic republicans, and communitarians have argued that the uncertainty and contest regarding its meaning should not prevent individuals or communities from trying to act for the common good or from developing a politics in which the common good, conceived always as contested, plays a central role.


  • Aristotle;
  • Bentham, Jeremy;
  • Habermas, Jurgen;
  • Kant, Immanuel;
  • legal and political;
  • Locke, John;
  • Mill, John Stuart;
  • Nietzsche, Friedrich;
  • normative ethics;
  • good