The concept of global public goods has been advanced as a way of understanding certain transborder and global problems and the need for a coordinated international response. It has been used to describe everything from global environment, international financial stability, and market efficiency, to health, knowledge, peace and security, and humanitarian rights. Using an internal critique, this article finds that the concept is poorly defined, avoids analytical problems by resorting to abstraction, and masks the incoherence of its two central characteristics. The conclusion is that even if the concept of global public goods is effective rhetorically, precise definition and conceptual disaggregation are required to advance analysis of global issues.

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Global Governance
Department of Economics

Long, D, & Woolley, F. (2009). Global public goods: Critique of a UN discourse. Global Governance, 15(1), 107–122.