Issue 2/2012, 108. Volume Page 265–285
Cultural and Historical Dimensions of the Debate about Common Good. An Example of the Up-to-dateness of Issues of European Ethnology
Ein Beispiel für die Aktualität von Themen der Europäischen Ethnologie
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Issues of European Ethnology have gained new relevance, since the Nobel laureate in economics, Elinor Ostrom, highlighted the importance of common good (common property, community benefits, commons) for economic theory and political practice. Currently it also serves as a model for new institutions beyond market and state. The correction of Garrett Hardin’s paradigm of “The Tragedy of the Commons“ reveals that the controlled use of commons may be more efficient than nationalization or privatization. Market-based components do not disappear in the process, but remain embedded in the social culture. The following text highlights the cultural components of dealing with common good by referring to the material of European Ethnology: Alp farming, organized neighborhoods, village organization and so-called awards (manorial or village by-laws), guilds, social customs – they all bear witness to “common good“ and traces of it in the present. With the “discovery“ of the importance of commons old discussions of European Ethnology and Folklore have become popular again. Historical and civil rights, patrimony and dominion, modernity and enlightenment critique, progress and hostility towards enjoyment, social control and emancipation can be discussed again in light of the importance of social control and sanctionable rules for the functioning of the common good. In the present, the discussion of a society without growth compulsion is not only stimulated by numerous examples of new forms, but also by the memory of dealing with common good in the past.
commons, common good, common property, social capital, customs, social techniques, scepticism towards progress, crisis of the growth society, quality of life