The purpose of this paper is to outline the implications of the global ecological predicament for economic theory and practice.
Many current analyses of ecological, resource, economic, greenhouse, energy, etc. problems acknowledge the urgent need for significant changes. However, almost all assume that it will be possible to reform a society based on principles such as economic growth, affluent living standards, market systems, the profit motive and competitive, individualistic acquisitiveness, into a society that is sustainable and just. The first section of this paper sketches the grounds for concluding that this view is clearly mistaken. It shows that consumer‐capitalist society cannot be fixed, i.e. that no amount of reforms leaving its core principles intact can make it into a society that is sustainable and just. The second section derives from this analysis some of the basic principles, which a satisfactory society must, therefore, have. Section 3 deals with the radical implications of these discussions for economic theory and practice.
The paper shows that when the nature and magnitude of the global ecological situation is understood it is evident that a consumer‐capitalist society cannot be made sustainable or just, and that the irremediable faults are largely due to conventional economic theory and practice.
The main sociological implication is that the coming era of scarcity will require radical restructuring of the economy and of economic theory.
Previous critical economic literature has given little attention to the implications of the limits to growth literature focused on in this discussion.
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