Common Goods Theory: Identification and Review of Research Areas

Abstract :

Although the concept of common goods, or commons, has been used by scholars since the Middle Ages, its meaning keeps evolving and it has not been consistently defined so far. The increasingly complex reality and the challenges of today have been inspiring researchers to look for new applications of the common good theory. Traditionally, two research areas have been distinguished: the analysis of common goods, understood as natural resources, and the analysis of their users and the institutions they create. These areas have been quite thoroughly researched and the ensuing knowledge is relatively well structured, although many gaps still exist. However, new types of goods and services emerge in the literature, alongside new institutions, relationships and social processes that can be analyzed using the common good theory. In these areas, few theoretical works have been written and knowledge is poorly structured. Therefore, this paper aims at identifying and reviewing those research areas where the common good theory is or could be applied.?This paper is directly inspired by the issue of effective municipal waste management in the context of circular economy. While the theory of public goods seemed more appropriate at first, it turned out that many elements of this system could be seen as common goods. Waste itself could be perceived as both a common good and a demerit good. Although some works have been written on this, they are merely case studies or do not derive from the common good theory.?The paper sets out to identify and possibly expand the areas researched by the common good theory by determining the attributes of common goods and their environment that can be analyzed. The historical development of the common good theory will serve as a starting point.