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Scientific paper


Economic versus ecological world view – ontologies as reality blinder

Joachim H. Spangenberg

Entry type:
Scientific paper

Year of publication:

Degrowth Conference Leipzig 2014


Abstract: The standard economists’ worldview comprises an ontology according to which the environment is as part of the economic system, implying a distinction between useful and not useful nature (as today frequently in ecosystem service discussions), an anthropology of selfish individuals and an axiology of utilitarism. This worldview determines the “solutions” developed: no limitation to growth but trust in technology and substitutability, internalising cost to correct market failures instead of recognising market system failures, efficiency instead of sufficiency, decoupling instead of capping. Without challenging the worldview the dedication to growth will not be overcome. This is the situation when a “paradigm shift” (Kuhn) seems to be in the making – however, so far a coherent alternative, a conceptual and theoretical base for degrowth philosophies and strategies, is only slowly emerging. Accelerating this process is a necessary condition for cultural hegemony and thus for sufficient political impact to reverse the current development trajectory.

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