The Common Good

An Introduction to Personalism

Steffen Boeskov, Leif E. Kristensen (Eds.)

by Jonas Norgaard Mortensen, Else Marie Bech , Finn Godrim , Dorte Toudal Viftrup

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”The Common Good captures personalism’s core insight, interpersonal relations as the key to understanding God, Persons, and the world. This presentation of personalism is the first, as far as I know, to present personalism to a general audience. From that perspective, The Common Good, accomplishes an important goal: Personalism is central to daily grappling with our common lives together. Pulled to something greater than ourselves, we must embrace personalism with unrelenting passion.”

Thomas O. Buford, Professor,
Furman University, North Carolina

”I very much enjoyed reading The Common Good. The book does an excellent job of conveying what personalism is about that certainly will be understandable to a general reader, as well as of interest to personalist academics.”

James Beauregard,
Rivier University, Nashua, New Hampshire

"Jonas Norgaard has done a great job by exposing the personalist thought brilliantly adapted to the mentality and interests of the 21st century. Combining his skills as a communicator with precision in presenting the authors, he has been able to present the main anthropological and social keys of personalism in a format close to all readers.”

Juan Manuel Burgos, Professor,
San Pablo University, Spain

”I found it a very enjoyable and interesting read – a grand piece of work that does the job of presenting what is, in many ways, quite a straightforward and pragmatic philosophy to a wider audience which definitely deserves to know much more about the subject.
By bringing this vital and exciting tradition to public attention, this book presents a crucial challenge to the philosophical, political, and cultural status quo. It does so, moreover, in a remarkably engaging and readable way. It may also prove to be a great contribution to the development of a popular public philosophical discourse.”

Simon Smith, Independent Scholar,
Haslemere, Surrey

”In his book Norgaard Mortensen gives a convincing introduction to this current of thought, and takes a step forward in revealing it´s importance in the public sector. Prof. Mortensen’s current work is an accurate and non-technical account of the main characteristics present in the life and work of many important authors that have put the human person in the forefront of their intellectual reflection and praxis.”

Jorge Olaechea Catter, Director,
Vida Y Espiritualiddad, Lima, Peru

”Jonas Norgaard Mortensen’s work will undoubtedly satisfy the expectations of a number of readers who were left disappointed by specialist theses, available to a narrow range of experts. The publication is attractive because it can serve as a reference book, enabling people to acquaint themselves with the basic assumptions of the personalistic philosophy and its application in the creation of common good.”

Krzysztof Guzowski, Professor,
John Paul II Catholic University, Lublin, Poland

”This is a very good book and Jonas have done us all a great service in writing it.”

Randall Auxier, Professor,
Southern Illinois University ; Editor of the journal The Personalist Forum (renamed The Pluralist in 2005), USA

”I am both shocked and moved to find that personalism, the existence of which I was unaware of until now, seems to be the common thread that runs through all of my passionate commitments, present and past, as far back as I can remember. The book hits the exact spot where my heart beats, my tears flow, and my courage to work for change is rekindled.“

Karen Lumholt,
Journalist, Author and Director of think tank Cura, Denmark

”An extremely well-written introduction to personalism, a virtually unknown philosophical and political current that holds great inspiration for our way of building and leading communities. A break with an often stereotypical polarization of individual over against community, by looking at relationships as what connects each of us with others. In the family, the workplace, and in the world. Do we build up or do we tear down? We face this choice every day in our communication, behavior, and management.”

Thomas Johansen, Director, Partner and Head Consultant,
MacMann Berg

”How desperately we need the view of humans that permeates personalism and the book The Common Good. It is a holistic view of humans, it is about respect for values and social relations, and it is about the belief that we, in a community, can change the world and our own existence. Personalism is fundamentally about becoming responsible: our ability to take responsibility— and to share it. The book dusts off an old theory and demonstrates its vast relevance in our current age and world. It does so by involving brand new knowledge about social relationships from surveys and theories in the human and social sciences. The book will therefore be of value to anyone working in the social sector.”

Per Schultz-Jørgensen, Professor of Psychology,
Danish School of Education, Denmark

”The notion that all humans are dignified, relational, and engaged is a subcurrent of my entire work with young people in boarding schools. In conversations, dialogue, and behavior, this view of humans comes to the surface and gives content and body to the claim that “All young people wish to succeed”. The book The Common Good should be read by anybody working with children and young people.”

Jan Dufke, Headmaster,
Skovbo Boarding School

“In these times when the crisis of culture and management seems to have become permanent, it is wonderful to see a book that grapples with a challenging and inspirational new perspective. The book is a welcome and vitalizing unpacking of ideas that will resonate with the growing number of people who are all fighting for a new and better future. Read the book; it is an important and benevolent appeal for society to rise up and re-conquer our social institutions as human domains.”

Stig Skov Mortensen, Head,
SOPHIA – think tank for pedagogics and social formation

”As I read the second edition of The Common Good, I was shocked to discover the pertinence and centrality of some of the book’s points in light of recent developments in national and international society. We are witnessinga social shift in which community and dialogue become ever more trapped between political correctness and populist darkness. In this postfactual haze, The Common Good can help us navigate towards deeply founded values, frames, and relational points of orientation that provide air for our development and well-being to grow in.”

Karsten Auerbach, Painter

”A growing number of people are becoming involved in volunteer efforts centered around relationships, because the way we interact defines the life we live and the society that we are part of. The Common Good articulates the importance of this fact and provides insight as well as new inspiration for a future with humans at the center.”

Jakob I. Myschetzky, Development Manager,
Danish Refugee Council / Frivillignet (Volunteer Department)

”Personalism has always helped me in my work in organization development, namely as an essential contribution to the balancing of the classical dilemmas always present in such work—for instance in finding the right balance between bureaucracy and emergent aspects, between control and freedom, and between uniformity and diversity.”

Henrik Schelde Andersen, Chief Consultant,

“We live in an age when representative democracy is incapable of accommodating the true and good values of community in the struggle against dark forces. The book The Common Good sets the direction for a new political culture that ascribes to each one of us social as well as political responsibility in order for us to contribute to the renewal of society. The language and magic of art may here be a crucial source of inspiration.


The Common Good sets the direction for a new political culture that ascribes to each one of us social as well as political responsibility in order for us to contribute to the renewal of society.”

Preben Melander, Professor,
Centre for Business Development and Management, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark

Our traditional ways of thinking about politics and society are becoming obsolete. We need some new points of reference in order to re-imagine the possible character, growth, and functioning of our private and common life. Such re-imagination would imply doing away with every-man-for-himself individualism as well as consumption-makes-me-happy materialism and the-state-will-take-care-of-it passivity.

There is an alternative: Personalism is a forgotten, yet golden perspective on humanity that seeks to describe what a human being is and to then draw the social consequences. Personalism builds upon the thinking of Martin Buber and Emmanuel Levinas, among others, and has been a source of inspiration for Martin Luther King, Desmond Tutu, and other important personalities in recent history.

According to personalism, humans are relational and engaged and possess dignity. The person and the relationship amongst persons are the universal point of departure: Human beings have inherent dignity, and good relationships amongst humans are crucial for the good, engaged life and for a good society.

Personalism has been greatly neglected in Western political thought. In this book, Jonas Norgaard Mortensen attempts to introduce personalism while simultaneously demonstrating its historical origins, acquainting the reader with its thinkers and those who have practiced it, and showing that personalism has a highly relevant contribution to make in the debate about today’s social and political developments.

Foreword by Thomas O. Buford

The Relational Human
You and I, Alfred

The Engaged Human
You Are Free for Community

The Dignified Human
You Are One of a Kind

Challenges to Personalism
You and I – on Our Way

About the Author

Jonas Norgaard Mortensen is committed to the philosophical and value debate on the welfare state. In 2012 Jonas Norgaard Mortensen published the Danish book "Det fælles bedste" (in English "The Common Good"), which has since been published in three editions. In 2015 Jonas Norgaard Mortensen published the anthologies "The personal community. Personalism in practice" and "The relational human. Personalism in perspective", where a number of leading experts give their views as to which practices and perspectives personalism provides for relational being. Jonas Norgaard Mortensen is today an active lecturer, working both nationally and internationally with personalism and is director of the Institute for relational Psychology, working with relational being.

Personalism, personalistic, political philosophy, philosophy of relation, philosophy of engagement, philosophy of dignity, relational thinking, philosophy, theology, psychology, political theories

See also

Bibliographic Information

Book Title

The Common Good

Book Subtitle

An Introduction to Personalism





Number of pages


Physical size

236mm x 160mm

Publication date

March 2017