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Alternative provisioning systems

Summary:
From Clive Spash and Clíodhna Ryan and RWER issue 106 Economics fails not merely to account for biophysical limits to growth but to account for actual and potential alternative provisioning systems. Instead, talk of ‘the economy’ makes an implicit ontological claim that there is only a singular form of modern economy: the capital accumulating, price-making market economy. Economics has then become limited to a discussion of market capitalism and how it can be maintained in light of its evident failings. Hence, a new critical orthodoxy has arisen that seeks to maintain ‘business as usual’. Recognising that there is considerable potential for alternatives to current economic systems is a first step beyond this orthodoxy. Economics must go much further to become a science of social

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from Clive Spash and Clíodhna Ryan and RWER issue 106

Economics fails not merely to account for biophysical limits to growth but to account for actual and potential alternative provisioning systems. Instead, talk of ‘the economy’ makes an implicit ontological claim that there is only a singular form of modern economy: the capital accumulating, price-making market economy. Economics has then become limited to a discussion of market capitalism and how it can be maintained in light of its evident failings. Hence, a new critical orthodoxy has arisen that seeks to maintain ‘business as usual’. Recognising that there is considerable potential for alternatives to current economic systems is a first step beyond this orthodoxy. Economics must go much further to become a science of social ecological provisioning that recognises and provides for diverse alternatives to be actualised.

The bottom line is how alternative economies as ethical social provisioning systems can be made to work, how current economic and political structures operate to prevent change to such systems and how we get from here to there. Social ecological economics emphasises that there is a material, energy and so ecological dimension to economics. Reorienting economics to become a science concerned with the analysis of how to meet different fundamental human needs would mean paying attention to the ecological and social structures that enable provisioning. The social dimension of social ecological transformation also necessitates that attention be paid to the specific social context in which provisioning occurs, and this includes power structures and institutions—understood as conventions, norms, and formally sanctioned rules and regulations—that coordinate social interactions. What is required now is an economics discipline that studies the implementation of social ecological provisioning to meet human needs within an ethical framework of care and justice for others, both human and non-human. Economics in the 21st Century must address the radical transformation of existing economic structures if it is to stop the mechanisms creating social ecological crises.

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