The Foundational Economy as a Cornerstone for a Social–Ecological Transformation

Publication: Scientific journalJournal articlepeer-review

77 Downloads (Pure)


This theoretical paper synthesises research on the foundational economy and its contribution to a social–ecological transformation. While foundational thinking offers rich concepts and policies to transition towards such transformation, it fails to grasp the systematic non-sustainability of capitalism. This weakness can be overcome by enriching contemporary foundational thinking with feminist and ecological economics. Whereas the feminist critique problematises foundational thinking’s focus on paid labour, the ecological critique targets Sen’s capability approach as a key inspiration of foundational thinking, arguing that a theory of human needs is better suited to conceptualise wellbeing within planetary boundaries. Based on this, we outline a novel schema of economic zones and discuss their differentiated contributions to the satisfaction of human needs. By privileging need satisfaction, such broadened foundational thinking demotes the tradable sector and rentier economy, thereby revaluating unpaid work as well as respecting ecological imperatives. This empowers new articulations of social and ecological struggles to improve living conditions in the short run, while having the potential in the long run to undermine capitalism from within.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1 - 19
Issue number18
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Austrian Classification of Fields of Science and Technology (ÖFOS)

  • 502027 Political economy
  • 504
  • 502042 Environmental economics

Cite this