Economy


  • Marxism and Ecology: Common Fonts of a Great Transition


    This essay uncovers the deep ecological roots of Marxism, finding concepts that anticipate such contemporary notions as sustainable development and planetary boundaries. This common wellspring, it argues, supports a unified socialist and ecological project for a Great Transition.

  • The Degrowth Alternative


    The "degrowth movement" has captured wide attention in recent years. Giorgos Kallis, an eminent scholar of this movement, explains its aims of opening up space for imagining and enacting alternative visions to modern growth-based development.

  • Economics for a Full World


    We live in a full world but still behave as if it were empty. The urgent task ahead of us is to create an economy that remains within the earth’s carrying capacity while rethinking the ultimate purpose of the economy itself.

  • Common Wealth Trusts: Structures of Transition


    Modern society is imperiling our collective natural and cultural inheritance. New institutions like common wealth trusts can enable us to protect these resources and share their benefits equally, countering the tendency of contemporary capitalism to destroy nature and widen inequality.

  • Decolonizing the Empire of Cotton


    Sven Beckert’s Empire of Cotton offers a magisterial history of cotton’s role in the development of modern capitalism. However, it is a partial story: the bright light it shines on the “empire” and its masters occludes the array of social forces and actors working to tame or dismantle the emergent system.

  • From Business Entrepreneur to Social Entrepreneur


    World Social Forum co-founder Oded Grajew discusses his career transformation, the history of the WSF, and what lies ahead.

  • Limits to Investment: Finance in the Anthropocene


    We are not only in ecological overshoot, but "financial overshoot" as well. The time has come to reimagine the system.

  • Monetizing Nature: Taking Precaution on a Slippery Slope


    As support grows for placing a monetary value on nature’s services, we must take caution lest we ignore the socio-cultural dimensions of nature and subject it to the volatile and calculative logic of markets.

  • Two Cheers for Piketty


    In Capital in the Twenty-First Century, Thomas Piketty provides a sweeping explanation of inequality, but his proposed remedies offer reform, rather than the fundamental change essential to guiding the global economy toward a just and sustainable future.

  • Dreaming of a Sustainable China


    Peggy Liu, the co-founder of the Joint US-China Collaboration on Clean Energy, discusses efforts to steer China's rapid development in a sustainable direction and to reimagine prosperity while doing so.

  • Debating the Sharing Economy


    What is the "sharing economy"? Can it contribute to a more sustainable and equitable future? Juliet Schor answers these questions, arguing that democratizing the ownership of these new platforms will be key to realizing their potential.

  • Transforming Innovation for Sustainability


    As the world gears up for the Rio + 20 conference in June 2012, many are pinning hopes on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a concrete outcome. Yet there is little clarity on what SDGs should involve, who should set them, and how they can be realized in practice. This commentary article draws on recent research by the STEPS Centre, the Stockholm Resilience Centre, and Tellus Institute to argue that Sustainable Development Goals that keep human societies within a “safe operating space” are now urgently needed. However, delivering on these requires a radically new approach to innovation that gives far greater recognition and power to grassroots actors and processes, involving them within an inclusive, multiscale innovation politics.

  • Premises for a New Economy


    In an ecologically constrained world, both the global North and the global South need to consider new obligations and limits. A basic commitment to social justice requires that the claims of the poor, chiefly residing in the South, take precedence over the claims of the rich, chiefly residing in the North. The scope for further growth to contribute to well-being in affluent regions is quite limited, so the costs to the North of reducing growth may be modest-especially if a new economy is organized to provide the economic basis of a good life based on precepts other than more, more, and still more. While recognizing a priority for the poor imposes obligations on the North, this recognition cannot be a license for the South to replicate the wasteful disregard for ecosystem boundaries or the claims of the disadvantaged that has characterized growth in the North.

  • Principles for a New Economy


    The purpose of an economic system is to organize human activities in ways that support healthy and resilient human communities and ecosystems for both present and future generations. To achieve this purpose, deep, system-wide change to existing economic institutions is urgently needed to reverse conditions typical of contemporary global, regional, national, and local economies. At the core of a New Economy is the need to decouple the achievement of well-being from limitless economic growth. The following Principles are designed to guide the actions of all economic actors and organizations whose decisions and actions affect, or would be affected by, the transition to a New Economy.

    A project of the Core Principles Working Group of the New Economy Network

  • World Trade: A New Direction


    Global trade negotiations are moribund, with the World Trade Organization’s agenda stalled and the neoliberal ideology it serves confronted by a rising chorus of criticism. The trading system, built on the premise that promoting commercial interests necessarily advances the general interest, instead has fed a multifaceted planetary crisis. At this juncture, trade policy must find a new way forward. The key to this change lies in reversing the priority that in the past made free trade an end in itself, thereby consigning the larger goal of sustainable development to an afterthought. From now on, economic, social, and environmental sustainability goals should set the criteria for designing and applying multilateral trade rules. We suggest concrete steps to help transform the WTO from an agent of privilege and profit into a force for an equitable, peaceful, and resilient world.

  • Work and Well-being


    In an economy focused on growth and individual gain, it is difficult to question the primacy of compensation among the indicators of welfare and create space for a broad discussion of the factors that contribute to well-being. Yet doing so is essential to corporate redesign. Earnings are but one contribution to a worker’s well-being. A long and satisfying work experience, rich in opportunity and fulfillment, depends on a host of tangible and intangible factors. The current economic crisis provides a rare opening for rethinking the linkage between well-being and work.

  • How Should the Economy Be Regulated?


    Regulation has long been defined in terms of maximizing damage control—namely, to limit the negative behaviors of business to ensure protection of the public interest. While, to some degree, this damage control mindset should be maintained, now is an appropriate moment in time to complement damage control with proactive, positive regulatory principles that are designed to achieve specific public purposes. With a broad spectrum of urgent social, economic, and environmental problems upon us, enhanced regulatory structures and processes stand as a key opportunity to mobilize all our social resources toward solving such problems, while at the same time enhancing democratic process and consciousness.

  • Visions of Regional Economies in a Great Transition World


    Rich Rosen and David Schweickart analyze the dominant models of capitalism and socialism from the twentieth century to identify key lessons learned that must be kept in mind in building a more just, equitable, and sustainable economic system. They then proceed to outline three model economic arrangements that would embody the values of a Great Transition future.

    Essay #4 in the GTI Paper Series: Frontiers of a Great Transition

  • Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren: Progress and Prospects After 75 Years


    In 1930, as the Great Depression was beginning, John Maynard Keynes wrote the essay Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren. In it, he looked 100 years ahead to a future in which learning to live well had replaced the struggle for subsistence as the basic problem facing humanity. The future discussed by Keynes is now only twenty-five years away. Beginning with current data on income, the paper shows that progress beyond the struggle for subsistence has been limited to the developed countries and will likely remain so through 2030. Among these countries, overwork, rather than living well, is increasing. This paper calls for a fundamental change in values—away from overwork and toward living well—among the developed countries that might have positive feedback effects on the prospects of developing countries as well.

  • Civic Entrepreneurship: A Civil Society Perspective on Sustainable Development. Vol. 1: Global Synthesis


    Civic Entrepreneurship: A Civil Society Perspective on Sustainable Development celebrates the impact civil society has had on actualizing sustainable development, with over one hundred successful examples worldwide. It is based on the premise that in today’s world, it is not only the past that determines what is and what shall be, but rather that the trends of the present can rewrite the history of what may be. In exploring this premise, the series attempts to understand what has worked for sustainable development, and thus what needs to be built upon to shape a future we want to see.

  • Environmental Tax Shifting in Massachusetts: Taxes That Work for our Environment and the Economy.


    This primer describes an innovative approach to tax policy called Environmental Tax Shifting (ETS). The basic idea is that rather than raising revenues by taxing activities that we want to encourage or support like income or savings or labor, we would tax things we want to discourage like pollution or waste or sprawl. This primer elaborates on different ways we could raise the revenues needed in Massachusetts while at the same time protecting the environment and enhancing the economy.

  • From Social Costing to Sustainable Development: Beyond the Economic Paradigm


    Recent years have been characterized by a major transition in public policy regarding economics, the environment, and human well-being—particularly, the application of economic principles to environmental policy and the insertion of ecological principles into economic affairs. This article explores the evolutionary character of this transition and the contention in which it is often embroiled, such as debates over externalities valuation, discounting, and monetization. It then describes the PoleStar project and how it addresses the complex social, economic, and ecological interactions that will underpin human development in the twenty-first century.

    Originally published in Olav Homeyer and Richard Ottinger, eds., Social Costs of Energy: Present Status and Future Trends (New York: Springer, 1994), 373-404.