10th Anniversary Focus: From mainstream ‘environmental economics’ to ‘sustainability economics’. On the need for new thinking
Traditional ideas of science as being separate and separable from ideology and politics have to be reconsidered. Each interpretation of sustainable development is not only scientific but at the same time ideological. For this reason our ideas about good science should also be related to normal imperatives of democracy. Mainstream neoclassical economics is specific in scientific and ideological terms. This paradigm is useful for some purposes and has played a role as a mental map in guiding us towards economic growth and other ideas about progress in society and the economy. Sustainable development, however, represents an ideological turn in our ideas about progress and it is no longer clear that neoclassical theory will be enough. Alternative perspectives in economics are being developed as part of a pluralistic strategy and the monopoly position of neoclassical economists at university departments of economics is thereby challenged. A ‘political economic person’ is suggested as alternative (complement) to Economic Man assumptions and a ‘political economic organization’ to be compared with the neoclassical profit maximizing firm. Alternative ways of understanding markets and international trade, efficiency, decision-making, monitoring and assessment are also needed. It is argued that such an alternative mental map is useful for actors who take the challenge of sustainable development seriously.