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Theoretical foundations of sustainable economic welfare indicators -- ISEW and political economy of the disembedded system

  • Brennan, Andrew John
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    The conceptual foundations of the Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare (ISEW) are surveyed and critiqued. It is argued that the three underlying theories of community, psychic income, and social welfare economics supply certain theoretical foundations for the ISEW. The focal point of the theories is to evaluate the positives and negatives of economic growth, with the hope of achieving a practical measure of sustainable economic welfare. However, they are not as well developed as they should be: the three theories have partial, underdeveloped explanations of the benefits (services) and costs (disservices) generated in the system. The theoretical particulars of ISEW abstract from the workings of the capitalist system, because the ISEW advocates have not specified a society in the socioeconomic system which we currently have. Specifically, there is no underlying linked systems view of the disembedded economy -- where the exchange economy tends to dominate other aspects of culture. Without a systematic understanding of the political economy of capitalism, the ISEW is potentially flawed in design. Therefore, there is a need to search for a critical approach to sustainable economic welfare. As a point of departure, it is better to have a political economy theory. The political economy of the disembedded system provides an alternative theoretical approach to ISEW.

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    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Ecological Economics.

    Volume (Year): 67 (2008)
    Issue (Month): 1 (August)
    Pages: 1-19

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:ecolec:v:67:y:2008:i:1:p:1-19
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