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An Interdisciplinary Discussion of ‘Public Goods’ (Workshop 1)

When: Wednesday, April 6, 2022, 4:00 PM - 5:15 PM
Where: Online, Zoom

“Reimagining Global Public Goods in the 21st Century” online discussion series

This opening workshop will center the following questions: What is the very definition of a ‘public good’? And how have economists, sociologists, political scientists, and political theorists defined ‘public goods’ in their respective disciplines, now and/or in the past?

About the series

Global Public Goods have a history and a geography that pre-dates the current international policy discussion and which may provide clues as to how to take the concept forward. The COVID-19 pandemic has both underscored the need for this and presents some concrete challenges with which scholars and practitioners alike must reckon with. Despite rhetorical promises that “no one is safe until everyone is safe” and that we all share certain common global vulnerabilities, efforts to define the discovery and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines as global public goods have been half-hearted. What is the disconnect? And what other visions of common ownership provide alternative intellectual and political vocabularies for meeting global common needs and safeguarding the public interest.

This series of virtual discussions on “Reimagining Global Public Goods in the 21st Century” complements the Miami Institute’s ongoing discussions on alternative models of national and international political economies, knowledge production in the academe as a global public good, and the necessary collective psyches at the national and global levels to sustain public support for national and global public goods. It also conforms to the IHSS’s mandate to discuss the intellectual bases of public and political problems. To view prior forums at the Miami Institute during the past year, please visit the organization’s homepage

Over the course of three linked workshops, the IHSS and MISS seek to raise a new debate as to what is missing in the language of Global Public Goods. There has been much discussion about what constitutes a “good” in the language of global public goods, for example, but rather less on the matter of what constitutes the “public” and how we manage public needs at scale. This raises disciplinary questions. Economists have a particular understanding of “global public goods”; historians, geographers, political scientists, anthropologists and others may have a different take. Has a historical period ever existed when global public goods have existed, for example? And what can we learn from the past of other people and places? Assuming we believe today that there exists certain ‘global public goods’—such as knowledge production in the medical and social sciences —how do we work towards the necessary legal, institutional, and psychic shifts in the national, regional and global public realms to fund and secure them appropriately? Also, who would and should be its funders? Raising questions such as this brings into sharp relief the way that we presently organize political society and its relationship to social and economic infrastructure.

The discussants

The discussants include Prof Milindo Chakrabarti, Prof Raúl Rodríguez and Dr Rituparna Patgiri


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