Of ecosystems and economies: Re-connecting economics with reality

Clive L. Spash, Tone Smith Spash

Publication: Scientific journalJournal articlepeer-review


This article provides an overview of the relationships between economic systems and the environment, human society and non-human nature, ecology and economy. It brings together various literatures with the aim of introducing the reader to the importance of biophysical reality for the operation of real economies, and therefore also for economics. In the next section, we explain the problems facing standard economic approaches if they are to address environmental problems, but more generally their inability to even understand the social ecological crises due to a limited scope and direction. This is followed by outlining the place of economies in the context of their social and bio-physical structural relations, a basic general ontology. More specific detail is then added on the lessons that can be drawn from ecological understanding in terms of ecosystems, materials and energy. The final section draws out the implications of this understanding for social ecological transformation of the currently dominant economic systems and the type of economics required to help achieve that transformation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)212 - 229
JournalReal World Economics Review
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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