Table of Contents

Handbook of Ecological Economics

Handbook of Ecological Economics

Edited by Joan Martínez-Alier and Roldan Muradian

This Handbook provides an overview of major current debates, trends and perspectives in ecological economics. It covers a wide range of issues, such as the foundations of ecological economics, deliberative methods, the de-growth movement, ecological macroeconomics, social metabolism, environmental governance, consumer studies, knowledge systems and new experimental approaches. Written by leading authors in their respective areas of specialisation, the contributions systematize the “state of the art” in the selected topics, and draw insights about new knowledge frontiers.

Chapter 2: The content, direction and philosophy of ecological economics

Clive L. Spash

Subjects: economics and finance, environmental economics, environment, ecological economics


This chapter borrows, and provides some key points, from a series of articles where I have explored the divisions in environmental research in economics (Spash, 1999; 2013; Spash and Ryan, 2012), the need to raise the profile of social and political research in ecological economics (Spash, 2011a) and the necessity of developing a clear understanding of the philosophy of science upon which to base the whole research agenda (Spash, 2012a). My position can be set out briefly as being that ecological economics has lost its direction and the mass of ‘stuff’ calling itself by this name needs to be disentangled. More specifically what is superficial and shallow should be clearly separated from what is progressive and deep. Much of the work being presented in the journal Ecological Economics and at conferences run by the international and regional societies is mainstream resource and environmental economics, not ecological economics. This reveals the betrayal of the original aims of challenging and changing society and economy as opposed to pursuing the mainstream economic goals of efficiency and growth reinforced by spreading market institutions to all aspects of life. In contrast to the economic orthodoxy, the aim of societal transformation to a more just, equitable and environmentally benign system involves a realization of the need for deconstructing the current capital accumulating, energy-intensive, materialist, hedonic system and the academic economics that provides it with supporting rhetoric.

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