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What is sustainability economics?

  • Stefan Baumgärtner


    (Department of Sustainability Sciences, Leuphana University of Lüneburg, Germany)

  • Martin F. Quaas

    (Department of Economics, University of Kiel, Germany)

While economists have been contributing to the discussion of various aspects of sustainability for decades, it is just recently that the term “sustainability economics” was used explicitly in the ecological, environmental, and resource economics community. Yet, the contributions that use the term “sustainability economics” do not refer to any explicit definition of the term, and are not obviously joined by common or unifying characteristics, such as subject focus, methodology, or institutional background. The question thus arises: What is “sustainability economics”? In this essay, we make an attempt at systematically defining and delineating what “sustainability economics” could be in terms of its normative foundation, aims, subject matter, ontology, epistemology, and genuine research agenda.

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Paper provided by University of Lüneburg, Institute of Economics in its series Working Paper Series in Economics with number 138.

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Length: 16 pages
Date of creation: Sep 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:lue:wpaper:138
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  1. Peter Söderbaum, 2007. "Towards Sustainability Economics: Principles and Values," Journal of Bioeconomics, Springer, vol. 9(3), pages 205-225, December.
  2. Funtowicz, Silvio O. & Ravetz, Jerome R., 1994. "The worth of a songbird: ecological economics as a post-normal science," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 10(3), pages 197-207, August.
  3. Baumgärtner, Stefan & Becker, Christian & Frank, Karin & Müller, Birgit & Quaas, Martin, 2008. "Relating the philosophy and practice of ecological economics: The role of concepts, models, and case studies in inter- and transdisciplinary sustainability research," UFZ Discussion Papers 2/2008, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), Division of Social Sciences (ÖKUS).
  4. Becker, Gary S., 1978. "The Economic Approach to Human Behavior," University of Chicago Press Economics Books, University of Chicago Press, edition 0, number 9780226041124.
  5. Becker, Christian & Faber, Malte & Hertel, Kirsten & Manstetten, Reiner, 2005. "Malthus vs. Wordsworth: Perspectives on humankind, nature and economy. A contribution to the history and the foundations of ecological economics," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(3), pages 299-310, May.
  6. Ayres, Robert U., 2008. "Sustainability economics: Where do we stand?," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 67(2), pages 281-310, September.
  7. Muller, Adrian, 2003. "A flower in full blossom?: Ecological economics at the crossroads between normal and post-normal science," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 45(1), pages 19-27, April.
  8. Illge, Lydia & Schwarze, Reimund, 2009. "A matter of opinion--How ecological and neoclassical environmental economists and think about sustainability and economics," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(3), pages 594-604, January.
  9. Stigler, George J & Becker, Gary S, 1977. "De Gustibus Non Est Disputandum," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 67(2), pages 76-90, March.
  10. Becker, Christian, 2006. "The human actor in ecological economics: Philosophical approach and research perspectives," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 60(1), pages 17-23, November.
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