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Substantive Economics and Avoiding False Dichotomies in Advancing Social Ecological Economics

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  • Spash, Clive L.

Abstract

The proposal has been put forward that ecological economics seek to become substantive economics (Gerber and Scheidel 2018). This raises important issues about the content and direction of ecological economics. The division of economics into either substantive or formal derives from the work of Karl Polanyi. In developing his ideas Polanyi employed a definition from Menger and combined this with Tönnies theory of historical evolution. In this paper I explore why the resulting substantive vs. formal dichotomy is problematic. In particular the article exposes the way in which trying to impose this dichotomy on history of economic thought and epistemology leads to further false dichotomies. Besides Polanyi, the positions of other important thinkers informing social ecological economics (SEE) are discussed including Neurath, Kapp and Georgescu-Roegen. The aim is to clarify the future direction of ecological economics and the role, in that future, of ideas raised under the topic of substantive economics.

Suggested Citation

  • Spash, Clive L., 2019. "Substantive Economics and Avoiding False Dichotomies in Advancing Social Ecological Economics," SRE-Discussion Papers 2019/05, WU Vienna University of Economics and Business.
  • Handle: RePEc:wiw:wus009:7045
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    1. Aspromourgos, Tony, 1986. "On the Origins of the Term 'Neoclassical.'," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 10(3), pages 265-270, September.
    2. Clive L. Spash, 2012. "Towards the Integration of Social, Economic and Ecological Knowledge," Palgrave Macmillan Books, in: Julien-François Gerber & Rolf Steppacher (ed.), Towards an Integrated Paradigm in Heterodox Economics, chapter 1, pages 26-46, Palgrave Macmillan.
    3. Gareth Dale, 2011. "Lineages of Embeddedness: On the Antecedents and Successors of a Polanyian Concept," American Journal of Economics and Sociology, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 70(2), pages 306-339, April.
    4. Spash, Clive L., 2013. "The shallow or the deep ecological economics movement?," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(C), pages 351-362.
    5. Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen, 1979. "Methods in Economic Science," Journal of Economic Issues, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 13(2), pages 317-328, June.
    6. Clive L. Spash, 2011. "Social Ecological Economics: Understanding the Past to See the Future," American Journal of Economics and Sociology, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 70(2), pages 340-375, April.
    7. 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.
    8. Oskar Lange, 1936. "On the Economic Theory of Socialism," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 4(1), pages 53-71.
    9. Adaman, Fikret & Devine, Pat, 1996. "The Economic Calculation Debate: Lessons for Socialists," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 20(5), pages 523-537, September.
    10. Oskar Lange, 1937. "On the Economic Theory of Socialism: Part Two," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 4(2), pages 123-142.
    11. Spash, Clive L., 2012. "New foundations for ecological economics," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 77(C), pages 36-47.
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    Keywords

    Substantive economics; Karl Polanyi; Formal economics; History of thought; Epistemology; Social ecological economics; Economic anthropology;
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