In recent years it has become increasingly common to speak of the international or global common good. It remains unclear, however, what political content attaches to this expression, and how it relates to more traditional conceptions of the common good rooted in the context of the polis or the nation-state. This article examines the ramifications of extending this time-honored concept to a transnational framework, focusing in particular on the evolving rhetoric of the political common good in Catholic social thought. The first part traces the emergence of the transnational common good in Catholic thinkers such as Maritain, Murray, and Messner, as well as in the encyclical tradition. The second part addresses, from the standpoint of political theory, problems of scope, structure, and application attending the expansion of the common good. The concluding section proposes a multilayered, heuristic interpretation of the common good organized around the notion of a “plurality of pluralisms.”
When one speaks of the common good, it always makes sense to inquire: The common good of whom? How the common good is demarcated is a matter of no small moment for any claims that are made in its name. name. For these claims stumble as soon as it becomes clear that the good referred to is in fact shared by only some members of the assumed collectivity and not the rest; and they likewise falter if they are revealed to rest on an inappropriate delimitation of the collectivity at the expense of others who, for the purposes at hand, should rightfully be included.