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Of Ecosystems and Economies: Re-connecting Economics with Reality

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  • Spash, Clive L.
  • Smith, Tone

Abstract

This discussion paper looks at the connections between economies and ecosystems, or more generally biophysical reality. The term "economies" is used, rather than "the economy", because of the prevalent false claim that there is only one type of economic system that is possible. We outline how the ecological crises is linked to the dominant drive for economic growth and the tendency to equate growth with progress and development; common even amongst those apparently critical of the need for continued growth in the materially rich countries. The unreality of mainstream economics is epitomised by the accolades given to those justifying mild reformist policy in response to human induced climate change in order to continue the pursuit of economic growth. We emphasise the structural aspects of economies as emergent from and dependent upon the structure and functioning of both society and ecology (energy and material flows). Finally, that the structure of the global economy must change to avoid social ecological collapse, poses the questions of how that can be achieved and what sort of economics is necessary? We explain the need for: (i) a structural change that addresses the currently dysfunctional relationships between economic, social and ecological systems, and (ii) an economics that is interdisciplinary and realist about its social and natural science relations.

Suggested Citation

  • Spash, Clive L. & Smith, Tone, 2019. "Of Ecosystems and Economies: Re-connecting Economics with Reality," SRE-Discussion Papers 2019/03, WU Vienna University of Economics and Business.
  • Handle: RePEc:wiw:wus009:6903
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Clive L. Spash & Anthony Ryan, 2012. "Economic Schools of Thought on the Environment: Investigating Unity and Division," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 36(5), pages 1091-1121.
    2. Clive L. Spash & Heinz Schandl, 2009. "Challenges for Post Keynesian Growth Theory: Utopia Meets Environmental and Social Reality," Chapters, in: Richard P.F. Holt & Steven Pressman & Clive L. Spash (ed.), Post Keynesian and Ecological Economics, chapter 3, Edward Elgar Publishing.
    3. Spash, Clive L., 2007. "The economics of climate change impacts a la Stern: Novel and nuanced or rhetorically restricted?," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 63(4), pages 706-713, September.
    4. K. William Kapp, 1970. "Environmental Disruption And Social Costs: A Challenge To Economics," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 23(4), pages 833-848, November.
    5. Ayres, Robert U., 1998. "Eco-thermodynamics: economics and the second law," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 26(2), pages 189-209, August.
    6. Arild Vatn, 2005. "Institutions and the Environment," Books, Edward Elgar Publishing, number 2826.
    7. Maximilian Auffhammer, 2009. "The State of Environmental and Resource Economics: A Google Scholar Perspective," Review of Environmental Economics and Policy, Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 3(2), pages 251-269, Summer.
    8. Richard P.F. Holt & Steven Pressman & Clive L. Spash (ed.), 2009. "Post Keynesian and Ecological Economics," Books, Edward Elgar Publishing, number 12988.
    9. Giampietro, Mario & Mayumi, Kozo & Ramos-Martin, Jesus, 2009. "Multi-scale integrated analysis of societal and ecosystem metabolism (MuSIASEM): Theoretical concepts and basic rationale," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 34(3), pages 313-322.
    10. Kapp, K William, 1969. "On the Nature and Significance of Social Costs," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 22(2), pages 334-347.
    11. Clive L Spash, 2009. "Social Ecological Economics," Socio-Economics and the Environment in Discussion (SEED) Working Paper Series 2009-08, CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems.
    12. C. Jaeger & Leonidas Paroussos & Diana Mangalagiu & Roland Kupers & Antoine Mandel & J. David Tabara, 2012. "A new growth path for Europe: generating prosperity and jobs in the low-carbon economy," Université Paris1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (Post-Print and Working Papers) halshs-00666804, HAL.
    13. Ayres, Robert U., 2004. "On the life cycle metaphor: where ecology and economics diverge," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 48(4), pages 425-438, April.
    14. Gerber, Julien-François & Scheidel, Arnim, 2018. "In Search of Substantive Economics: Comparing Today's Two Major Socio-metabolic Approaches to the Economy – MEFA and MuSIASEM," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 144(C), pages 186-194.
    15. Pirgmaier, Elke, 2017. "The Neoclassical Trojan Horse of Steady-State Economics," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 133(C), pages 52-61.
    16. Hall, Peter A. & Gingerich, Daniel W., 2009. "Varieties of Capitalism and Institutional Complementarities in the Political Economy: An Empirical Analysis," British Journal of Political Science, Cambridge University Press, vol. 39(3), pages 449-482, July.
    17. Vatn, Arild, 2005. "Rationality, institutions and environmental policy," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 55(2), pages 203-217, November.
    18. Kapp, K William, 1970. "Environmental Disruption and Social Costs: A Challenge to Economics," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 23(4), pages 833-848.
    19. Daly, Herman E, 1974. "The Economics of the Steady State," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 64(2), pages 15-21, May.
    20. Herman E. Daly, 1968. "On Economics as a Life Science," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 76, pages 392-392.
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    As found on the RePEc Biblio, the curated bibliography for Economics:
    1. > Schools of Economic Thought, Epistemology of Economics > Heterodox Approaches > Ecological Economics

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    Cited by:

    1. Spash, Clive L., 2020. "A tale of three paradigms: Realising the revolutionary potential of ecological economics," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 169(C).
    2. Quinn, Terrance, 2021. "Lonergan’s Contribution to Ecological Economics," Ecology, Economy and Society - the INSEE Journal, Indian Society of Ecological Economics (INSEE), vol. 4(01), January.

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    Keywords

    growth; development; economics; ecosystems; thermodynamics; political economy; critical realism;
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