Joint Production and Responsibility in Ecological Economics

Joint Production and Responsibility in Ecological Economics

On the Foundations of Environmental Policy

Advances in Ecological Economics series

Stefan Baumgärtner, Malte Faber and Johannes Schiller

This groundbreaking book takes a fresh look at how environmental problems emerge from economic activity and how they may be addressed in a responsible and sustainable manner. At its centre is the concept of joint production. This captures the phenomenon whereby several effects necessarily emerge from one activity and whereby human action always entails unintended consequences. This, according to the authors, is the structural cause behind modern-day environmental problems.

Chapter 12: Joint Production, Knowledge, and Responsibility

Thomas Petersen

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


with Thomas Petersen In the previous chapter, we discussed the close relationship between responsibility and joint production. Now we turn to the link between both concepts and knowledge. Joint products can be conceived of as intended or unintended concomitants of production processes which the producer must – under certain circumstances – take into account or assume responsibility for. However, as we have seen, responsibility requires the ability to foresee, to a certain extent, the consequences of one’s action. Phrased differently, one must know what one’s actions entail. Responsibility, therefore, raises a problem of knowledge. This problem was addressed in an instructive manner by Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1970[1821]) who considers responsibility and knowledge in an ethical perspective. 12.1 Hegel on Responsibility and Knowledge1 The consequences are the part of one’s actions that materialise in outer reality. In contrast, the purpose of those actions, that is, the essence of those actions, does not see the light of day but remains within. Therefore, the philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1970[1821]: §118)2 calls – in a somewhat poetic manner – the consequences of one’s actions ‘the shape which has the purpose of the action at its soul’. Hegel (1970[1821]: §118) goes on to differentiate between the necessary and the chance consequences of an action. • Necessary consequences are those which an action ‘in its general quality’ (Hegel 1970[1821]: 225) always, or at least generally, entails. • Chance consequences depend on further circumstances, separate from the action itself, which can be given or...

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