Document Type


Publication Date



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences


Social Work


The task of identifying nonprofit organizations, voluntary action and philanthropy as the principal constituents of a single "sector" within the larger economy, society and polity has been a central challenge for the multidisciplinary paradigm which seems to be emerging in this field. The concepts of the commons and common goods are presented as concepts with important multi-disciplinary implications. The commons is characterized by uncoerced participation, shared purposes and resources, mutuality and fairness and the derivative concept of common goods, as desirable ends which are universal and indivisible within a commons but not necessarily beyond. Taken together, commons and common goods offer the basis for a shared paradigm which can resolve the sector problem.

Source Citation

Paper presented at Annual Conference, Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Associations. Chicago IL. October , 1991. A revised and edited version of this manuscript was published in Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 21(3), 309-324.


This is an author's pre-print of the conference paper.



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