The Messiness of Common Good: An Analysis of Philanthropic Practices and Concepts 1920-2014

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    Civil society and its philanthropic and voluntary organisations are currently experiencing public and political attention and demands to safeguard society’s ‘common good’ through social cohesion and as providers of welfare services. This has raised the question by both practitioners and researchers alike of whether civil society and its organisations can maintain their specific institutional logic if they are messed up with other logics (state and market). These concerns spring from a sector model that has championed research of civil society. The paper dismisses the sector model and claims that a distinction between the non-civil and the civil is more fruitful, if we want to understand how past, present and future messiness is central in defining the common good. Based on an analytical attitude of microhistory, conceptual history and the sociology of translation the paper shows how philanthropic concepts, practices and operational forms throughout history have played a significant role in defining the common good and its future avenues. Through a historical case analysis of a Danish foundation owned business1920-2014, the paper shows that civil society’s institutional logic historically has been messed up with other logics and that it is this mess that creates and legitimize contemporary definitions of the common good.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication date2017
    Number of pages18
    Publication statusPublished - 2017
    EventThe 33rd EGOS Colloquium 2017: The Good Organization - Copenhagen Business School, Copenhagen, Denmark
    Duration: 6 Jul 20178 Jul 2017
    Conference number: 33


    ConferenceThe 33rd EGOS Colloquium 2017
    LocationCopenhagen Business School
    Internet address


    • The common good
    • Legitimizing
    • Civil society
    • Philanthropy
    • Translation

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