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Principles for Sustainability: From Cooperation and Efficiency to Sufficiency


  • Thomas Princen


If analysts of political and ecological economy take seriously critical trends in environmental degradation and accept social responsibility for contributing to the reversal of such trends, they must go beyond the descriptive and predictive to the prescriptive, beyond marginal environmental improvement to sustainability, beyond cooperation and efficiency to sufficiency.Cooperation and efficiency principles are useful when biophysical underpinnings remain intact. Otherwise, sufficiency principles-restraint, precaution, polluter pays, zero, reverse onus-address the defining characteristics of current trends, namely environmental criticality, risk export, and responsibility evasion. They engage overconsumption. They compel decision-makers to ask when too much resource use or too little regeneration risks important values such as ecological integrity and social cohesion, when material gains now preclude material gains in the future, when consumer gratification or investor reward threatens economic security, when benefits internalized depend on costs externalized. Under sufficiency, one necessarily asks what are the risks, not just in the short term and for immediate beneficiaries, but in the longterm and for the under-represented. Copyright (c) 2003 Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Suggested Citation

  • Thomas Princen, 2003. "Principles for Sustainability: From Cooperation and Efficiency to Sufficiency," Global Environmental Politics, MIT Press, vol. 3(1), pages 33-50, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:tpr:glenvp:v:3:y:2003:i:1:p:33-50

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    Cited by:

    1. Hensher, Martin & Tisdell, John & Zimitat, Craig, 2017. "“Too much medicine”: Insights and explanations from economic theory and research," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 176(C), pages 77-84.
    2. Annukka Berg, 2011. "Not Roadmaps but Toolboxes: Analysing Pioneering National Programmes for Sustainable Consumption and Production," Journal of Consumer Policy, Springer, vol. 34(1), pages 9-23, March.
    3. Pablo Torres-Lima & Luis Rodríguez-Sánchez, 2008. "Farming dynamics and social capital: A case study in the urban fringe of Mexico City," Environment, Development and Sustainability: A Multidisciplinary Approach to the Theory and Practice of Sustainable Development, Springer, vol. 10(2), pages 193-208, April.
    4. Sneddon, Chris & Howarth, Richard B. & Norgaard, Richard B., 2006. "Sustainable development in a post-Brundtland world," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 57(2), pages 253-268, May.
    5. Ulf Schrader & John Thøgersen, 2011. "Putting Sustainable Consumption into Practice," Journal of Consumer Policy, Springer, vol. 34(1), pages 3-8, March.
    6. repec:eee:tefoso:v:124:y:2017:i:c:p:126-134 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Annu Markkula & Johanna Moisander, 2012. "Discursive Confusion over Sustainable Consumption: A Discursive Perspective on the Perplexity of Marketplace Knowledge," Journal of Consumer Policy, Springer, vol. 35(1), pages 105-125, March.
    8. Boulanger Paul-Marie, 2010. "Basic Income and Sustainable Consumption Strategies," Basic Income Studies, De Gruyter, vol. 4(2), pages 1-11, September.
    9. Anne Marchand & Stuart Walker & Tim Cooper, 2010. "Beyond Abundance: Self-Interest Motives for Sustainable Consumption in Relation to Product Perception and Preferences," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 2(5), pages 1-17, May.

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