Weak versus Strong Sustainability
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Weak versus Strong Sustainability

Exploring the Limits of Two Opposing Paradigms, Fourth Edition

Eric Neumayer

This fourth edition of an enduring and popular book has been fully updated and revised, exploring the two opposing paradigms of sustainability in an insightful and accessible way. Eric Neumayer contends that central to the debate on sustainable development is the question of whether natural capital can be substituted by other forms of capital. Proponents of weak sustainability maintain that such substitutability is possible, whilst followers of strong sustainability regard natural capital as non-substitutable.
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Chapter 7: Conclusions

Exploring the Limits of Two Opposing Paradigms, Fourth Edition

Eric Neumayer


The objective of this book was to explore the limits of the two opposing paradigms WS and SS. The analysis was based on the economic methodology since both paradigms are essentially economic. In Chapter 2 development was defined as sustainable if it does not decrease the capacity to provide non-declining per capita utility for infinity. The meaning of this definition was explained and different forms of capital were introduced as the items that together form the capacity to provide utility. In section 2.1 many simplifying assumptions were introduced to make the analysis in this book possible and the insights that arise from the course of examination have to be seen in the light of these assumptions. In other words, the conclusions I arrive at will not necessarily hold if other assumptions or a broader perspective are taken. To give some examples: it was clearly stated that the analysis is confined to economic paradigms of sustainability; the definition of SD is anthropocentric and rules out the deep ecology view that non-human entities have value independent of human valuation; finally, for a large part of the book intra-generational as opposed to inter-generational equity issues were ignored.

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