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Natural Capital as an Economic Concept, History and Contemporary Issues

Antoine Missemer

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Abstract: Natural capital is usually presented as a recent concept, used for the first time in the 1970s, adopted in an important contribution by David Pearce in 1988, and widely used by ecological economists in the early 1990s. First employed to incorporate natural constraints into the economic lexicon, and to oblige economists to take the environment into account, the concept has also been used to include the environment in narrow economic valuations. To take a global view of these controversial uses, this paper reconsiders the genesis of natural capital as an economic concept, not in its present-day form, but from its almost unknown, ancient origins in the 1900s–1910s, in the writing of Alvin S. Johnson. The article first sheds light on this historical and theoretical moment, and then shows how it can help interpret current controversies about natural capital.

Keywords: John Bates Clark; Monetary valuation; Theory of capital; Natural capital; History of economic thought; Irving Fisher; Alvin S. Johnson (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2018
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Published in Ecological Economics, Elsevier, 2018, 143, pp.90-96. ⟨10.1016/j.ecolecon.2017.07.011⟩

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DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2017.07.011

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