Democratizing economics

Pluralism as a path toward sustainability

Authors

  • Peter Söderbaum,

    1. Professor Emeritus, Ecological Economics, School of Sustainable Development of Society and Technology, Mälardalen University, Västerås, Sweden.
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  • Judy Brown

    1. Professor of Accounting, School of Accounting and Commercial Law, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand
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Address for correspondence: Peter Söderbaum, School of Sustainable Development of Society and Technology, Mälardalen University, Box 883, 72123 Västerås, Sweden. peter.soderbaum@mdh.se

Abstract

Climate scientists point to a number of unsustainable trends concerning the environment and natural resources. There is also ongoing concern about poverty reduction, labor rights, and other social aspects of sustainable development. Growing numbers argue that change is required, but still at issue is the extent of change and how to facilitate it. In this paper, the focus is on the dominant interpretive schema of influential actors with respect to ideas about science in society, paradigms in economics, and ideological orientations. The authors argue that the monopolistic position of neoclassical economics at university departments of economics in different parts of the world, and the spread of its associated technocratic logic within broader policy arenas, should be abandoned in favor of a more ideologically open attitude that facilitates discussion and debate within academia, public policy, and in civil society more generally. In a sense, economics requires “democratization” with implications for approaches to sustainability monitoring, accounting, and the assessment of projects and policies. The paper provides suggestions for developing sustainability assessment technologies and practices that take pluralism seriously.

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