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Goods of the mind, goods of the body and external goods: sources of conflict and political regulation in seventeenth-century natural law theory

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This paper will try to test the plausibility of interweaving a conception of politics with the nature of the conflict which politics is supposed to regulate, by looking at a specific case in the history of Western political thought. I wish to consider the interpretation of modern social relations that sees conflict as arising from the unequal distribution of (relatively) scarce resources. It is my aim to analyse the origins of this conception. But first I would like to note the success of this line of thought, which permeates both everyday conversations and theoretical works. When we argue that the unequal distribution of scarce resources is the main source of conflict, we use ‘resources’ mainly to refer to all goods and commodities that are indispensable to the production of socially desirable items. The term ‘resources’ carries a distinctive economic flavour; and as the main threat to social cohesion is seen to stem from disagreements over the allocation of those ‘resources’, the solution to the problem is mainly seen in terms of reaching an equilibrium, by relying on the devices of political economy.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Michigan.

Publication date: 1992-01-01

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