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Scientific paper


'The economy' as if people mattered: revisiting critiques of economic growth in a time of crisis

Clive L. Spash

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Scientific paper

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Taylor & Francis


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Coronavirus (COVID-19) policy shut down the world economy with a range of government actions unprecedented outside of wartime. In this paper, economic systems dominated by a capital accumulating growth imperative are shown to have had their structural weaknesses exposed, revealing numerous problems including unstable supply chains, unjust social provisioning of essentials, profiteering, precarious employment, inequities and pollution. Such phenomena must be understood in the context of long standing critiques relating to the limits of economic systems, their consumerist values and divorce from biophysical reality. Critical reflection on the Coronavirus pandemic is combined with a review of how economists have defended economic growth as sustainable, Green and inclusive regardless of systemic limits and multiple crises – climate emergency, economic crash and pandemic. Instead of rebuilding the old flawed political economy again, what the world needs now is a more robust, just, ethical and equitable social-ecological economy.

Globalizations, May 2020

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