Heterodox Economics Newsletter

Issue 255 November 25, 2019 web pdf Heterodox Economics Directory

During these days a short article by Oswald and Stern claiming that 'econ lets the world down on climate change' caught my eye. The main thrust of the piece is that economics is not taking climate change seriously enough as is evidenced by the lack of attention to the topic in major economic journals. In a way they demonstrate how our theoretical preconceptions also shape our understanding of what constitutes a relevant problem by pointing out that what is typically conceived as an 'externality' is also somehow 'external' to the discipline as such and, hence, not perceived as relevant enough for major publication outlets. Stern and Oswald are obviously morally engaged and speak about "a duty to get involved". I have to admit that while I surely admire their bluntness and courage, I have some doubts whether it is of help to get economics to enter center stage in this debate. Haven't we just recently seen a major award going to a stream of research that is currently heavily criticized for its destructive policy-implications with regard to climate change?

Against this background, it is a great pleasure for me to report that the 2019 Kurt Rothschild Prize has been awarded to Kate Raworth from Oxford University's Environmental Change Institute for her work on "doughnut economics". Kate's work would perfectly suit the aims of Oswald and Stern as is it explicitly designed to confront and overcome the conceptual lopsidedness inherent in much of contemporary economics by providing an alternative heuristic - the doughnut - for capturing core aspects of economic progress and social prosperity. It thereby aims to reshift what is perceived as relevant and worth deeper inspection.

Thereby the doughnut stands for the "safe space" of humanity in which both major constraints - human dignity and material well-being (the "social foundations" inside the doughnut) and ecological sustainability (the "ecological limits" outside of the doughnut) - are respected. In practice, the doughnut is a great tool and provides an inclusive and pluralist framework for research and teaching. It allows for incorporating (or, at least, considering) a series of elementary dimensions, that are deemed to be of high relevancefor enduring prosperity. In doing so it not only highlights a series of aspects - like health, inequality, reproductive work or means of subsistence - that are typically of interest to heterodox economists, but also resonates well with an understanding of economics as the study of social provisioning processes.

Having said all this makes clear that in my view the a mere shift of attention demanded by Oswald and Stern will not suffice; for economics to make a positive contribution towards better resolving the climate change issue requires instead a more full-fledged change in perspective.

All the best,


PS: A few weeks ago I drew your attention to a new heterodox journal, the Review of Evolutionary Political Economy(REPE). I have found that REPE is now open for new submissions here. Hence, papers can be submitted now and I think the editors are eagerly awaiting your suggestions.

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