Of Ecosystems and Economies: Re-connecting Economics with Reality

Clive L. Spash, Tone Smith

Publication: Working/Discussion PaperWU Working Paper


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.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationVienna
PublisherWU Vienna University of Economics and Business
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Publication series

NameSRE - Discussion Papers

WU Working Paper Series

  • SRE - Discussion Papers

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