Basics: Plural economics. Nature and money in economics: a pluralist introduction

Jul 28, 2020 by

To start the Alternative Economic and Monetary Systems 2020 Summer School it is first important to discover our own boundaries about how we understand the context where it is going to take place. Therefore, this blog is going to be organized into sections. First, exploring what economics is all about and from then on, what other topics do we need to think of as we move to an alternative.

How is economics usually defined?

In this first day of classes, we discovered that economics is such a rich discipline that can be defined in more ways than the Neoclassical approach we usually hear about. We were introduced to ten different schools of thought, all with their own characteristics, strengths, and weaknesses. The reason behind these multiple perspectives is closely related to certain core values that depend on how we envision the world, the role of individuals, the policy recommendations to deal with economic problems and so on. Therefore, social constructs become key to recognize economics as a social science.

Ironically, the dominant narrative at the scientific, political, and public level, holds a quantitative perspective that tends to commodify and assign monetary value to both social and ecological relations. A such we can see fossil fuels, particularly oil plays a huge role in the world economy. This source of energy fuels all productive processes. However, very few times we think of our economy from a biophysical perspective and recognize there is a natural limit to everything we do.

How can we update this definition?

Changing the economic system would also imply a redefinition about how we see the world. Acknowledging there is a biophysical limit to what happens in the economic system is a first step to envision an alternative to it. In addition, it is important to examine in detail current structures, agency, institutions, and values, as well as power relations. It truly is an advantage to count on multiple approaches from the different economic schools. They all represent an opportunity to imagine alternatives to the current economic system and to the power relations in our society. For this to happen, we must be open to listen carefully, learn and use different paradigms not only among researchers and practitioners in the field of economics but across disciplines as well as with lay citizens.


Written by: Michelle

Based on the session with Ernest Aigner and Mathias Kirchner during the AEMS 2020.