Goods - Typology

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Products/services are categorized by its degree of excludability and scarcity


Rivalry..........Private goods............Commons goods

Non rivalry......Collective goods........Public goods

Kinds of Goods in a Participatory Context

From the Participedia:

"Kinds of goods: Participatory processes can, in part, be classified according to the kind of good or goods at issue. What "works" will depend, in part, on the nature of these goods. Thus, for example, if a process aims to create recognition and understanding across ethnic divides, it will probably require a facilitated trust-building phase. If a process aims at a public good such as clean air, a process will require enough deliberation to identify common interests in achieving that good. If a good is primarily individual and material--such as income supports--processes should be designed to deal with distributional issues.

Insofar as they make a difference for the design of participatory processes, we believe the key classes of goods are as follows:

  • Public Goods: are goods that must be provided to everyone if they are provided to anyone. Common examples include public security and safety, and public health. “Commons”, such as healthy fisheries and clean air are also public goods. Because public goods cannot be divided and sold for profit, they (typically) require collective provision, and cannot be provided by markets. Thus, governments are (typically) responsible for providing public goods.

  • Social Goods: are goods such as common culture, language, community capacities, and social capital. These goods come into existence as a consequence of interaction, and may be produced as an important consequence of participatory processes. Some participatory processes have as their goal the development of community capacity—a social good.

  • Material Goods: are goods that are enjoyed by individuals, such as food, clothing, shelter, individual education and skills, and individual health care. Unlike public goods, these goods can be distributed to individuals. For this reason, issues involving material goods are often about their fair, just, or efficient distributions.

  • Identity-based Goods: are goods having to do with individual and group interpretations of self-worth, self-esteem, recognition and affirmation by others, and place within society. Identity goods are, typically, closely linked to religion, ethnicity, race, regional and national identity, gender and sexual preference, and lifestyles. In contrast to public goods and individual material goods, identity goods can be recognized but not distributed. However, identity-based patterns of social organization often determine patterns of distribution, producing identity-linked distributive injustices."



Summary of Elinor Ostrom's classification by Wayne MacIntosch [1]

If we take two axes:

Rivalrous versus non-rivalrous goods


Excludable versus non-excludable goods.

The matrix then classifies for types of goods:

  • Common-pool resource (i.e non-excludable and rivalrous - eg the classic tragedy of the grazing commons, and a hard copy library book. When one partron has the book, another patron cannot take the book out at the same time)
  • private goods (i.e. excludable and rivalrous - eg commercially sold book)
  • toll good (i.e. excludable and non-rivalrous - eg paid subscription to an online journal. Digital copies are infinitely accessible)
  • Public Good (i.e. non-excludable and non-rivalrous eg knowledge or free content.)


  1. Common Goods
  2. Global Public Goods
  3. Rival vs Non Rival Goods
  4. Worldwide Public Goods

More Information

  1. Ecosystem Goods and Services
  2. Free Goods as Civilization Building
  3. Markets are inefficient for non-rival goods
  4. Ownership of Software vs. Ownership of Goods