Heterodox Economics Newsletter

Issue 279 April 26, 2021 web pdf Heterodox Economics Directory

In my humble view, the core challenge for contemporary economics & economic policy is to facilitate a socio-ecological transformation that ensures a form of global prosperity that is both fair as well as sustainable. Without touching on the much more intricate question on which specific economic systems or policies might be up to this task, I am bold enough to assume that some balance between social cohesion and ecological sustainability is necessary and that any policy choice that creates some synergy between these two spheres should score highly on the agenda.

While this basic attitude is also reflected in my own work (e.g. here), the more important observation in this context is that this basic ambivalence – do we strive for sustainability as demanded by planetary boundaries or do we want to increase material prosperity – is a core cleavage in heterodox thought. Simplifying a little, one can easily juxtapose Keynesian viewpoints focusing on 'fair & high material prosperity' and a de-growth camp, which argues that some 'turn towards sufficiency' is long overdue.

Regardless of your view on the subject, I think many of us will agree that getting a grip on this ambivalence is a key challenge for future research. Against this backdrop, I was delighted to spot some topical convergence in this issue of the Newsletter as one of the world-leading conferences in a Keynesian tradition places the challenge of a socio-ecological transformation as its main conference theme. Conversely, one of largest gatherings in the degrowth-community opts for a topical focus on care – a core subject connecting concerns for sustainability & social cohesion. In my view, these are wise choices of topics and a good step towards a convergence of perspectives and analyses. Well done!

All the best,
Jakob

PS: On a personal note, let me admit that I am rather agnostic about the 'growth-issue'. Actually, I believe that achieving sustainable prosperity will not be doable without some targeted large-scale investments (which, technically, boost growth at least in the short run). At the same time, there are some hard (e.g. thermodynamic) arguments on the degrowth-side and full de-coupling is empirically unrealistic; so a neglect of „sufficiency“ in the medium run seems overly optimistic, especially for the Global North. Maybe, just maybe, it’s simply a question of getting the time scale right...

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