Crisis, Innovation and Sustainable Development
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Crisis, Innovation and Sustainable Development

The Ecological Opportunity

  • Science, Innovation, Technology and Entrepreneurship series

Edited by Blandine Laperche, Nadine Levratto and Dimitri Uzunidis

This unique and informative book highlights the relationship between crisis, innovation, and sustainable development, and discusses the necessary conditions required to seize the ecological opportunity. The authors study the strength of change for building a new society, and the theoretical origins and political aspects of environmental concerns. They also sketch the outlines of a global governance system seeking to promote sustainable development.
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Chapter 6: Economic Theories, Environmental Issues and History of Thought

Sophie Boutillier and Patrick Matagne

Extract

6. Economic theories, environmental issues and history of thought Sophie Boutillier and Patrick Matagne INTRODUCTION For a lot of economists and intellectuals, ecological economics was born during the 1960s (Costanza, 1989; Ropke, 2004). However, the roots of this field of research are deeper. Since the nineteenth century, and even before (during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries), scientists (economists and naturalists especially) have developed compelling thoughts about the effects of economic activity on nature (about pollution and resource depletion). Of course, this reflection takes places in a particular historic context marked by the industrial revolution. This chapter provides a historical perspective about the background history of thought to ecological economics. The birth of political economics is commonly linked to the publication in 1776 of The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith (1723–90), the founder of the Classical School (Boutillier, 2003). Before that publication, economic thought already existed but it remained closely linked to ethics and philosophy and most of all, to global political power (‘l’économie du Prince’, defended by the mercantilists). Since that publication, the market has clearly been considered as the ideal kind of economic organization, though ‘laisser-faire, laisser-passer’ was not a classical but a physiocratic principle. The main issue of classical economics is the production of wealth. How do nations become wealthy? According to Smith, wealth is the result of labour. Once that principle has been set, its organization should be optimized in order to increase productivity by dividing and simplifying tasks. By asking how wealth could...

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