Relational Goods

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"Stefano Zamagni has coined the phrase, 'relational goods' which are as important as private goods and public goods. And he believes the fundamental problem of western societies is, too few relational goods. An imbalance in this area is just as dangerous to society as being over over occupied by the seductions of the marketplace or becoming too dependent on the state to provide care. The former can become a substitute for relationships and the latter dehumanizes the recipient and ignores and inadvertently destroys the power of our natural relations." (

2. John Restakis (from ch. 6 of Humanizing the Economy):

"The “discovery” of relational goods is one of the truly paradigm-shifting developments in recent economic analysis. Unlike conventional goods relational goods cannot be enjoyed by an individual alone but only jointly with others. They are like a specific kind of public good, in that they are anti-rival –their nature requires that they be shared. As a consequence, participation in their consumption actually creates an additional benefit to others and increases the value of the good itself. Examples include the collective joy of an audience experiencing a musical performance, the generalized laughter at a comic film, or the surge of energy that explodes when one’s team scores a goal in a stadium. The more people enjoy a relational good the greater its utility! When Canadians gathered in their thousands in bars and living rooms and on streetcorners to watch Canada win Olympic gold in men’s hockey in 2010, the electricity that flowed right across the nation was relational joy on an epic level. On a more intimate level, relational goods acquire value through sincerity, or genuineness - they cannot be bought or sold. Friendship and caring are relational goods and they are their own reward. They are things whose sale would immediately destroy their worth."


Richard Bartlett transcribing Ezio Manzini:

"Ezio reminded us that while collaboration is very human, it requires a complex cultural construction: trust, shared language, friendliness, mutual care, empathy, shared goals, etc. To fit them into the economic puzzle, he calls these “relational goods”.

From this he constructed a simple metric to evaluate where a venture in the so-called ‘sharing economy’ is likely to alleviate or exacerbate suffering.


A true sharing economy venture satisfies an economic need while also delivering relational goods.

So the community garden feeds your family while also building care and trust and resilience within your neighbourhood. Maybe it wouldn’t be so hard to imagine an alternative to Uber or AirBnB that could do the same?" (

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