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Energy, aesthetics and knowledge in complex economic systems

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  • Foster, John

Abstract

It is argued that the fact that economic systems are dissipative structures must be taken fully into account in economics if we are to understand the nature of the economic–ecological interface and how to deal with emergent environmental problems, such as global warming. Such problems are a product of economic growth, which is widely accepted to be the outcome of the acquisition and application of knowledge. Drawing upon disparate literatures within and outside economics, it is argued that economic growth should be more properly viewed as the outcome of a co-evolutionary process that involves the autocatalytic interaction of new knowledge and access of increasing amounts of free energy to do increasingly specialized forms of work. Specifically, the relevance of the ‘energy hypothesis,’ associated with Erwin Schrödinger and, more recently, revived by Eric Schneider and his collaborators, is assessed. This hypothesis states that all dissipative structures have, as their primary objective, the reduction of accessible free energy gradients. It is concluded that such a hypothesis cannot be rejected in the context of economic behaviour and that this opens up an important research agenda for economists.

Suggested Citation

  • Foster, John, 2011. "Energy, aesthetics and knowledge in complex economic systems," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 80(1), pages 88-100.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:80:y:2011:i:1:p:88-100
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jebo.2011.02.013
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Liam Wagner & Ian Ross & John Foster & Ben Hankamer, 2013. "Tracking global fuel supply, CO2 emissions and sustainable development," Energy Economics and Management Group Working Papers 7-2013, School of Economics, University of Queensland, Australia.
    2. Wagner, Liam & Ross, Ian & Foster, John & Hankamer, Ben, 2016. "Trading Off Global Fuel Supply, CO2 Emissions and Sustainable Development," MPRA Paper 69941, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. Potts, Jason & Foster, John & Straton, Anna, 2010. "An entrepreneurial model of economic and environmental co-evolution," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(2), pages 375-383, December.
    4. Spyros Arvanitis & Michael Peneder & Christian Rammer & Tobias Stucki & Martin Wörter, 2016. "Competitiveness and ecological impacts of green energy technologies: firm-level evidence for the DACH region," KOF Working papers 16-420, KOF Swiss Economic Institute, ETH Zurich.
    5. Lozada, Gabriel A., 2017. "The Hotelling Rule for Entropy-constrained Economic Growth," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 133(C), pages 35-41.
    6. repec:bla:scotjp:v:64:y:2017:i:4:p:392-418 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Foster, John & Metcalfe, J. Stan, 2012. "Economic emergence: An evolutionary economic perspective," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 82(2), pages 420-432.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Dissipative structure; Energy; Entropy; Knowledge; Aesthetics; Complex system; Evolution;

    JEL classification:

    • B52 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Current Heterodox Approaches - - - Historical; Institutional; Evolutionary
    • D80 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - General
    • O10 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - General
    • O43 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - Institutions and Growth
    • O44 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - Environment and Growth
    • P48 - Economic Systems - - Other Economic Systems - - - Political Economy; Legal Institutions; Property Rights; Natural Resources; Energy; Environment; Regional Studies
    • Q32 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Nonrenewable Resources and Conservation - - - Exhaustible Resources and Economic Development
    • Q43 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Energy - - - Energy and the Macroeconomy
    • Q57 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Ecological Economics
    • Z10 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - General

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