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The Church of Economism and Its Discontents

Richard Norgaard

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Introduction: Two centuries of explosive economic growth have radically altered our material and ideological worlds. With human activity now the major driver of geological change, the industrial era has come to be called the Anthropocene. This inquiry instead adopts the term Econocene, underscoring its ideological foundation: economism. The concept of economism, the reduction of all social relations to market logic, often appears in critiques of political movements and neoliberal economics. Our concern here is with economism as a widely held system of faith. This modern “religion” is essential for the maintenance of the global market economy, for justifying personal decisions, and for explaining and rationalizing the cosmos we have created. This uncritical economic creed has colonized other disciplines, including ecology, as ecologists increasingly rely on economistic logic to rationalize the protection of ecosystems. More broadly, economism often works syncretically with the world’s religions even though it violates so many of their basic tenets. A Great Transition is needed to replace economism with an equally powerful and pervasive belief system that embraces the values of solidarity, sustainability, and well-being for all.

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