Foundations of social ecological economics

The fight for revolutionary change in economic thought

By Clive L Spash

Foundations of social ecological economics
Hardcover -
  • Price: £85.00
  • ISBN: 9781526171481
  • Publish Date: Feb 2024
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
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  • Price: £85.00
  • ISBN: 9781526171474
  • Publish Date: Mar 2024
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
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    Book Information

    • Format: Hardcover
    • ISBN: 978-1-5261-7148-1
    • Pages: 272
    • Price: £85.00
    • Published Date: February 2024


    This book explores radical dissent from orthodox mainstream economics, and sets out a theoretically grounded vision for the emerging paradigm of social ecological economics. At the heart of this paradigmatic shift lies an acknowledgement of the inextricable embeddedness of economies in biophysical reality and social structure. The struggle for this transformative vision unfolds through a critical examination of mainstream environmental thought, followed by a nuanced evaluation of contributions from Marxists, socialists, critical institutionalists, feminists and Post-Keynesians grappling with the urgent environmental crisis.

    Synthesising insights from these diverse and heterodox schools, the book navigates the philosophical underpinnings of science, embracing a critical realist approach that challenges not only mainstream economic thought but also eclectic pluralism, relativism and strong constructionism. The question of what constitutes revolutionary science is explored in light of works by Kuhn, Schumpeter and Neurath, emphasising the pivotal role of values and ideology in works from Marx to Gramsci.

    Building on these radical and philosophical foundations, the book articulates a preanalytic vision of social ecological economics, dismantling entrenched notions of growth and efficiency in favour of a framework centered on social provisioning and needs embedded in ethics. In a thought-provoking conclusion, the book applies its analytical lens to the multiple crises of modernity within industrialised capital-accumulating economies. An agenda for social ecological transformation toward diverse alternative economies emerges, providing a compelling call to action in the face of contemporary challenges.


    "The field of ecological economics was founded in 1990. Clive Spash was active in it from the beginning with a decisive role over many years in the European Society of Ecological Economics. This book, written in crystal-clear style, develops the most profound philosophical discussion ever held of ecological economics as a branch of human ecology combining the study of social metabolism with valuation issues. Ecological economics is seen as the science of the institutions that secure the social provisioning of human needs while guiding a safe co-evolution of humans in nature. A landmark book building on the tradition of Otto Neurath and K.W. Kapp".
    Joan Martinez-Alier, Professor of Economics and Economic History, Autonomous University of Barcelona

    "A brilliant contribution to, and about, a radical paradigm of social ecological economics concerned with both disciplinary and social-ecological transformation as necessary conditions for achieving a world in which we all, and all other species, can flourish."
    Tony Lawson, Professor of economics and philosophy in the Faculty of Economics at the University of Cambridge

    "Clive Spash formulates - in an unusual clear and consistent way - a foundation for social ecological economics. He has for more than 30 years been engaged in developing ecological economics to ensure that its rationale - the economy's fundamental dependence on the bio-physical and the social - is consistently treated. The book develops a clear distinction between mainstream and ecological economics, specifies the limitations of the former and clarifies what is gained by moving away from an 'anything goes' ecological economics. The book is deeply rooted in the theory of science, offering a very enlightening text about fundamental issues for science that too often are glossed over or misunderstood. I am sure the book will provoke reflection and debate as well as help the society reclaim its identity. I found it very helpful."
    Arild Vatn, Professor of Environmental Sciences, Department of International Environment & Development Studies, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Ås, Norway.

    'I advise that you all read the book, not only to learn but also to engage in further developments of Clive Spash's 'vision'.'
    Environmental Values

    'The book constitutes an unparalleled effort in outlining a consistent framework for social ecological economics, where "sufficiency replaces hedonic excess and promotion of unlimited wants" (p. 213). Spash's firm commitment to a scientific approach, without lapsing into fact-value or science-ideology dichotomies, is welcome. He exposes the unrealism of those who claim to be "real economists" (to distinguish themselves from social ecological economists) and challenges the science-sceptical pluriversalist positions of incommensurable ontologies. Antirealism and antiscientific rhetoric are "both misplaced and unnecessary" because "the bottom line is that survival depends on getting things approximately right as to how Nature works, which is what science seeks to understand" (p. 209). Foundations of social ecological economics is a major contribution to this endeavour, providing the rallying cry in the fight for revolutionary change in economic thought: "There are only alternatives" (p. 219).'
    Richard Bärnthaler, Degrowth Journal


    Part I: Radical foundations
    1 Historical foundations and foundational conflicts
    2 Addressing the environmental crisis: Orthodox versus heterodox economics
    Part II: Philosophical foundations
    3 Issues in history and philosophy of science with implications for economics
    4 The philosophical basis for advancing knowledge in ecological economics
    5 Revolutionary transformative science
    Part III: Social ecological economic foundations
    6 Reorienting to social ecological economics: The preanalytic vision
    7 Integration of social, ecological and economic knowledge
    8 Clarifying division and seeking unity
    9 An alternative economics for alternative economies



    Clive L. Spash is Professor of Public Policy and Governance at Vienna University of Economics and Business

    Foundations of social ecological economics

    By Clive L Spash

    Hardcover £85.00 / $130.00

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