A “Social Imaginary” of the Commons: Its Ontology and Politics

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Adrian Pabst
Marcia Pally


This article suggests that the political and socio-economic difficulties burdening advanced economies, a factor as well in recent populist surges, are best addressed not only by political and economic theory but through a more primary understanding of how human beings survive and flourish and thus the kind of politics and economics that best account for those primary conditions. This interdisciplinary article thus relies on theology and philosophy to ground political economy. We locate one source of present difficulties in the “social imaginary†of exaggerated individualism, which misunderstands both the social nature of our species and so ironically even the conditions for individual flourishing. An alternative, we propose, is a social imaginary of the common good, which understands our individuality not in competition with our societal relations but as mutually constitutive with them. We offer several economic and political ideas based on this understanding of the human condition with an emphasis on relationality and reciprocity.

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Author Biographies

Adrian Pabst, University of Kent

Reader in Politics

School of Politics and International Relations

Marcia Pally, New York University

Professor in Multilingual Multicultural Studies at NYU

Guest Professor at Humboldt University, Berlin