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Social Ecological Economics: Understanding the Past to See the Future



    1. Department of Socio-Economics, WU Vienna University of Economics and Business, Nordbergstr
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    • Clive L. Spash holds the Chair of Public Policy and Governance in the Department of Socio-Economics, WU Vienna University of Economics and Business, Nordbergstr. 15/4/B-UZA 4, 1090 Wien, and is a Professor II in the Department of International Environment and Development Studies (Noragric), Norwegian University of Life Sciences. E-mail Professor Spash is an economist who specializes in environmental problems. His recent works include a controversial paper on carbon trading (Spash 2010), a co-edited volume on Post-Keynesian and Ecological Economics (Holt, Pressman, and Spash 2010), and a 4-volume collection of papers defining the field of Ecological Economics (Spash 2009a). For more information go to


The attempt to provide insight into the interactions between the economy and the environment has been an on-going struggle for many decades. The rise of Ecological Economics can be seen as a positive step towards integrating social and natural science understanding by a movement that aims to go beyond the confines of mainstream economics towards a progressive political economy of the environment. However, this vision has not been shared by all those who have associated themselves with Ecological Economics and there has been conflict. An historical analysis is presented that shows the role of mainstream theory in delimiting the field of environmental research. The argument is put forward that rather than employing a purely mechanistic objective empirical methodology there is a need for an integrating interdisciplinarity heterodox economic approach. In order to distinguish this approach—from the more mainstream multidisciplinary linking of unreconstituted ecological and economic models—the name Social Ecological Economics is put forward as expressing the essential socio-economic character of the needed work ahead.

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