The Ecological Economics of Consumption

The Ecological Economics of Consumption

Current Issues in Ecological Economics series

Edited by Lucia A. Reisch and Inge Røpke

Research on consumption from an environmental perspective has exploded since the late 1990s. This important new volume cuts across disciplines to present the latest research in the field.

Chapter 1: The Place of Consumption in Ecological Economics

Inge Røpke and Lucia A. Reisch

Subjects: environment, ecological economics, social policy and sociology, sociology and sociological theory


Inge Røpke and Lucia A. Reisch Research concerning consumption in an environmental perspective has become very dynamic in recent years. Throughout the 1990s contributions have emerged from several different disciplines and approaches, and the research now covers a wide variety of topics. As ecological economics is open for considering all aspects of the interactions between humans and the environment, and simultaneously has the ambition of promoting transdisciplinary work, it is not surprising to see an increasing number of contributions on consumption and environment emerge at ecological economics conferences and in journals related to the field. This anthology can be seen as part of this wave of interest. As a background for presenting the contributions of this volume, this introduction outlines the history behind the present wave of interest in consumption and environment. Without aiming at completeness, the intention of the following is to give an idea of the disciplinary and methodological breadth and variety of research concerning consumption and environment, and to place ecological economic contributions in perspective. 1.1 THE DEVELOPMENT OF A RESEARCH AREA Studies on consumption date back to the turn of the 20th century, a first milestone being Thorstein Veblen’s (1899) splendid sociological analysis of the ‘leisure class’. Another landmark was economist Harvey Leibenstein’s (1950) article on bandwagon, snob and Veblen effects, which inspired a whole strain of research on demonstration and status effects and, later, positional goods, and was about the first to explicitly thematize social external effects of private consumption. Until the early 1970s,...

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