What ‘Theory of Value’ for the Assessment of Social Projects? Economic Pricing, Social Decision-Making and Ecological Valuation
Authors: Marco Veronese Passarella, Marco Boffo, Andrew Brown
Abstract: The inquiry into the cause and the measure of the value of human products had been the fundamental question underpinning the inception of modern economic thought. However, starting from the 1870s, the focus of dominant economics switched from the analysis of social production and distribution to the study of human behaviour as a relationship between ends and scarce means that have alternative uses. This specific viewpoint is at the heart of cost-benefit analysis of social projects undertaken by the government sector. However, utilitarian principles underpinning mainstream economics lead to a systematic misevaluation of social and environmental net benefits of public projects. The aim of the paper is two-fold: first, to provide a critical analysis of theoretical foundations of standard methods of assessment of social projects; second, to verify whether alternative approaches are available, for a more effective way of assessing the impacts of social projects on economy, society and ecosystem.
Towards a heterodox theory of the environment
Authors: Elke Pirgmaier
Abstract: The great challenges of the 21st century call for effective action based on sound theory. By adopting an inter- and transdisciplinary, pluralistic and holistic approach of how social and ecological systems interact, ecological economics claims to offer a viable framework to do so. An investigation of the foundational pillars of the field reveals, however, that neoclassical allocative efficiency is accepted and promoted as one core goal, which leads to theoretical contradictions and, ultimately, hinders substantial progress. This paper makes the case for the in-existence of a heterodox economic theory of the environment at a macro level and the need for establishing one. Combined insights from ecological and heterodox economics might constitute the best chance for inspiring new theory that is consistent with the bio-physical limits of the planet.
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Structural Changes and Emissions of Greenhouse Gases: a subsystem application to Brazil between 2000 and 2009
Authors: Leopoldo Costa Junior, Fernando Soares, Alexandre Souza, Edson Toledo Neto
Abstract: The recent increase in worldwide concern over global warming has raised questions about the factors responsible for this weather phenomenon. In this context, this article analyses the impacts of structural changes in the Brazilian economy from 2000 to 2009 on the vector of greenhouse gases (GHG), properly built from the inventory of emissions and the Input-Output matrix of the Brazilian economy, from which the approach of vertically integrated sectors developed by Pasinetti (1973) is applied. The analysis concludes that Brazil advanced in environmental issues during that period, especially as regards the reduction of deforestation; that the energy and service subsystems generate more greenhouse gas emissions than their respective sectors; and that the environmental impact of energy sectors is more accentuated due to the recent change in the Brazilian energy matrix.
Pluralism and realism in the identity of ecological economics
Authors: Andrew Brown, Andrew Mearman
Abstract: Recent contributions by Clive Spash have highlighted an ongoing tension within ecological economics concerning the relative merits of a strategy of pluralism, given what he argues to be fundamental deficiencies of mainstream economics. Spash advocates a ‘structured pluralism’ based upon ‘critical realist’ ontology. He claims this approach is able to accommodate a plurality of perspectives in heterodox economics, and integrate them with ecosystem concepts, whilst eschewing the unrealistic precepts of mainstream economics. We agree that critical realism has some potential benefits for ecological economics. However, drawing on recent debates within heterodox economics, we argue that critical realism also has significant weaknesses. Specifically, critical realism has a weak concept of system; has limited potential for integrating knowledge; and offers little by way of positive vision for methodology. Instead we suggest that an approach based upon ‘systematic abstraction’ is better able to achieve the integrated, realistic and pluralistic framework desired by Spash.