The Common as a Mode of Production – a critique of the political economy of common goods

In the neoclassical categorization presented by Paul Samuelson, there was only room for two types of goods: private and public. Private goods were commodities produced by companies; public goods, as market “failures”, had to be produced by the state. This representation of the economy was a good translation of the working logic of the Keynesian-Fordist model of growth. Only later, with the early signs of the crisis of Fordism, such binary taxonomy of public and private goods was completed with the addition of two further categories. In primis, in the mid-sixties, with so-called club goods. Above all, this concept provides a way to justify the extension of the reach of the rule of commodities over a series of services for which an access fee can be charged. Later on, it was the turn of “our” common goods and their integration into the neoclassical categorization resulted from the debate sparked by Garrett Hardin’ theory of the Tragedy of the Commons.

Combining the attributes of rivalry and non-rivalry, of excludability and non-excludability, the neoclassical theory claims that features intrinsic to goods can determine their belonging to one or another economic domain. So, club goods such as motorways and subscription TV channels would be identified as such by their being non-rivalrous and excludable.


About Giorgio Bertini

Research Professor. Founder Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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