Substantive Economics and Avoiding False Dichotomies in Advancing Social Ecological Economics

Spash, Clive L. (2019) Substantive Economics and Avoiding False Dichotomies in Advancing Social Ecological Economics. SRE - Discussion Papers, 2019/05. WU Vienna University of Economics and Business, Vienna.


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The proposal has been put forward that ecological economics seek to become substantive economics (Gerber and Scheidel 2018). This raises important issues about the content and direction of ecological economics. The division of economics into either substantive or formal derives from the work of Karl Polanyi. In developing his ideas Polanyi employed a definition from Menger and combined this with Tönnies theory of historical evolution. In this paper I explore why the resulting substantive vs. formal dichotomy is problematic. In particular the article exposes the way in which trying to impose this dichotomy on history of economic thought and epistemology leads to further false dichotomies. Besides Polanyi, the positions of other important thinkers informing social ecological economics (SEE) are discussed including Neurath, Kapp and Georgescu-Roegen. The aim is to clarify the future direction of ecological economics and the role, in that future, of ideas raised under the topic of substantive economics.

Item Type: Paper
Keywords: Substantive economics; Karl Polanyi; Formal economics; History of thought; Epistemology; Social ecological economics; Economic anthropology
Divisions: Departments > Sozioökonomie > Multi-Level Governance and Development
Depositing User: Gertraud Novotny
Date Deposited: 10 Jul 2019 08:25
Last Modified: 22 Oct 2019 00:41
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