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Avoiding dualisms in ecological economics: Towards a dialectically-informed understanding of co-produced socionatures

Vijay Kolinjivadi

Ecological Economics, 2019, vol. 163, issue C, 32-41

Abstract: Recurrent claims that ecological economics (EE) is moving conceptually closer to environmental economics arise from the tendency to understand economic transformation through dualistic and interacting representations of ‘nature’ and ‘society’. The methodological and value pluralism primordial to EE praxis is left under-theorized in the form of either humans acting upon a passive and external nature or a non-negotiable nature imposing limits on human activity. Solutions tend to get presented as analytical configurations mechanistically adjoining ‘nature’ and ‘society’ for pragmatic purposes rather than through dialectic and relational understandings of a unified social and material analysis. This paper considers three sub-fields of EE research: social metabolism, institutional design within social-ecological systems, and ecosystem services, to illustrate how dualisms simplify human-nature relations and impede understanding of the continuous emergence of plural values. A dialectic positionality within these sub-fields sees humans and non-humans as relational, co-constituted and offering a politically and ethically explicit move towards distinctly anti-colonial futures in avoiding the tendency to reduce ‘nature’ and ‘society’ as inputs for economic production. I argue that greater sensitivity to geographical and historical nuance in the transformation of human-nature relations (or socionatures) is needed to more clearly distinguish and valorize the analytical and methodological contributions of EE scholarship.

Keywords: Institutions; Ecosystem services; Social metabolism; Political ecology; Dualism (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2019
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Handle: RePEc:eee:ecolec:v:163:y:2019:i:c:p:32-41