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The implications of the global ecological predicament for economic theory and practice

Authors
Disciplines
  • Ecology
  • Economics
  • Political Science

Abstract

Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to outline the implications of the global ecological predicament for economic theory and practice. Design/methodology/approach – Many current analyses of ecological, resource, economic, greenhouse, energy, etc. problems acknowledge the urgent need for significant changes. However, almost all assume that it will be possible to reform a society based on principles such as economic growth, affluent living standards, market systems, the profit motive and competitive, individualistic acquisitiveness, into a society that is sustainable and just. The first section of this paper sketches the grounds for concluding that this view is clearly mistaken. It shows that consumer-capitalist society cannot be fixed, i.e. that no amount of reforms leaving its core principles intact can make it into a society that is sustainable and just. The second section derives from this analysis some of the basic principles, which a satisfactory society must, therefore, have. Section 3 deals with the radical implications of these discussions for economic theory and practice. Findings – The paper shows that when the nature and magnitude of the global ecological situation is understood it is evident that a consumer-capitalist society cannot be made sustainable or just, and that the irremediable faults are largely due to conventional economic theory and practice. Social implications – The main sociological implication is that the coming era of scarcity will require radical restructuring of the economy and of economic theory. Originality/value – Previous critical economic literature has given little attention to the implications of the limits to growth literature focused on in this discussion.

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