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2022 | Buch

Regenerative Oikonomics

A New Perspective on the Economic Process

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This book presents a unique real-world-centred approach to economic life from a phenomenological approach. It offers a much-needed alternative to conventional economic thinking, giving a transdisciplinary depiction of the economic process’s social, cultural, technological, political, and ecological dimensions. Doing so appeals to students and researchers in economics aiming to get an alternative to the reductionist model-based approach.

Written in a jargon-free and non-technical way, it appeals to non-economists alike and those seeking a more profound and living understanding of the economic process. What is the role of nature in the economic process? Is there more to economics than we have been told? Do we have infinite needs? What are these needs? Can we keep on growing forever? Does economic growth improve our wellbeing? Why is the income gap widening? What is the role of financial capital in our current world? Are there other forms of producing, distributing, and consuming wealth beyond markets? What are the functions of markets, and how do they work in the real world? These and many other aspects are discussed in living and holistic ways in this book. It is a must-read for all those interested in gaining a more profound and genuine understanding of our current reality and those looking for ways out of our current crises.

Inhaltsverzeichnis

Frontmatter

What Went Wrong with Modern Economic Science?

Frontmatter
Chapter 1. Introduction: Encounter of the Fifth Kind with an Alien Science
Abstract
In this chapter, the author draws from his experience as an aspiring economist, describing how, as a student, instead of studying real-world economic processes, he was asked to solve reductionist, abstract, unrealistic models instead. Stahel discusses how, having done a master’s degree in international economics in an institute offering a multidisciplinary approach to international relations, still the economic process was treated as if it happens in a historical void where no ecological, political, cultural and technological changes affect it. Having experienced how economics is taught, the author saw how his colleagues and other students in economics, having been taught to specialise in model-solving, were hired to work at the IMF, the World Bank, the United Nations, international finances or multinational companies, where their decisions based on these models have real-world impacts.
Andri Werner Stahel
Chapter 2. Is Economics a Science?
Abstract
Stahel argues that economics cannot be considered a science in both content and method in this chapter. On the one hand, it ignores Nature on which the oikonomy is grounded. Moreover, in terms of content, the author shows that what we nowadays consider the economy is but a part of it. The Greeks called it chrematistics. On the methodological side, Stahel shows that by applying the mechanistic method borrowed from Newtonian physics to understand the complex, ever-changing economic process, highly restrictive and reductionist assumptions about reality had to be made. Thus, as Stahel shows, the use and abuse of the so-called ceteris paribus assumption—everything else, not included in the model, is assumed to be unchanging and thus irrelevant—meant, in practice, that economics ceased to be empirically verifiable and relevant, becoming a series of highly abstract and reductionist ideological models of reality instead.
Andri Werner Stahel
Chapter 3. About Economists and Theologians
Abstract
Following the discussions of the previous chapter, Stahel takes a hermeneutic and phenomenological look at modern economics as a practice. By doing so, the author points to a striking paradox: by basing itself on the mechanistic method pioneered by those like Galileo, Bruno and Kepler, who brought down the medieval theological way to approach reality, modern economics ended up resembling medieval theology in striking ways. As for theology, its method is based on a rhetorical use and interpretation of past theories and arguments instead of empirically considering the changing historical reality. As for theology, both ended up being central to legitimising their respective social, political and economic order. Moreover, in this chapter, Stahel shows that the parallels run deeper, converting economics into our contemporary theology.
Andri Werner Stahel
Chapter 4. Taking a Phenomenological Approach to Oikonomics: Looking at the World in Living and Holistic Terms
Abstract
In this chapter, Stahel points to the need to take a holistic, living, phenomenological approach to understand the oikonomic process, differentiating it from the regular use of the term ‘economy’. Given that the economic process is a complex, historically changing phenomenon happening at different dimensions, Stahel points to the need to approach it radically different from standard economics. Drawing on the insights the author gained from complex system theory, ecological economics, Gaia theory, far-from-equilibrium thermodynamics, Goethean science and phenomenology, Stahel argues for a new way to look and understand the oikonomy.
Andri Werner Stahel

What Is the Oikonomy All About?

Frontmatter
Chapter 5. Aristotle’s View: Oikonomy as the Art of Living and Living Well
Abstract
Stahel recovers Aristotle’s crucial distinction between use- and exchange-value in this chapter. That which Aristotle considered the primary and the secondary function of a commodity. Thus, he points out that chrematistics or commerce is a means to an end, not an end in itself. Following Aristotle’s, Stahel shows that what we consider the economy nowadays is just a part of it, namely, chrematistics. Even more strikingly, the author shows that a great deal of what we consider pertaining to economics should not even be regarded as proper oikonomic practice by being external to it once subordinated to the exchange-value logic and not to the satisfaction of fundamental human needs and to what the Greeks considered to be the oikonomy. That which they considered to be ‘the art of living and living well’.
Andri Werner Stahel
Chapter 6. Polanyi’s View: The Different Forms of Oikonomy
Abstract
In this chapter, Stahel follows the studies and insights of Karl Polanyi, the great economic historian and anthropologist. Thus, Stahel considers how four fundamental forms of oikonomy have existed throughout human history. They presented themselves always in different combinations and culturally specific interdependent shapes and colours. These are self-sufficiency, reciprocity or gift oikonomy, redistribution and commerce or chrematistics. Stahel adds a fifth to this list, namely, plunder, not considered and not seen by Polanyi. As he shows, it is as well a fundamental way whereby humans, and other predators, aim to ‘live and to live well’, satisfying their fundamental needs, although at others’ expense, thus providing an important addition to Polanyi’s view.
Andri Werner Stahel
Chapter 7. The Troubles with Free Markets
Abstract
In this chapter, Stahel looks at markets and chrematistics from a historical, phenomenological perspective. Thus, he offers an entirely different view than the standard one gained from representing them in idealised, abstract ways. Among others, Stahel shows that the standard conclusions of the benefit of free-market competition and the existence of an ‘invisible hand’ redirecting individual greed towards the common good as Smith and his followers assumed, cannot be sustained both from a logical and from an empirical, historical perspective. As Stahel argues, markets, like everything else, have to be understood in their ever-changing historical contexts. Thus, are their effects. Thereby, the author shows that the idea of ‘free markets’ and its assumption in standard economic models is not just an abstraction but an ideological misrepresentation of reality.
Andri Werner Stahel

Nature’s Oikonomy

Frontmatter
Chapter 8. The Ways of Gaia
Abstract
In this chapter, Stahel takes a phenomenological look at Nature and how wealth is regenerated through natural processes. To do so, the author recovers a long line in a Western scientific tradition, stretching back to Goethe’s scientific view, Humboldt, Haeckel, Suess, Darwin, Vernadsky, leading to Gaia theory and current climate sciences. Building on them, Stahel shows how our biosphere and life must be understood as a dynamic, living whole. The different physical, chemical, biological, social and cultural dimensions are not separated but interdependent parts of the same phenomenon. Furthermore, the author considers Ilya Prigogine’s far-from-equilibrium thermodynamics, showing that life and the oikonomy are fundamentally dynamic, ever-changing, self-regenerating dissipative structures. Thus, Stahel highlights the creative dimension of dissipation and the entropy law, making an essential contribution to ecological economics and Georgescu-Roegen’s view still based on classic thermodynamics.
Andri Werner Stahel
Chapter 9. A Matter of Scale
Abstract
Stahel points to the importance of maintaining the proper dynamic scale balances to both Nature’s and human’s oikonomy in this chapter. To do so, the author recovers the ideas of Leopold Kohr, an author who, although not widely known, has greatly influenced more known authors like Ivan Illich and Fritz Schumacher, as well as Stahel himself. Following these authors, Stahel points to the importance of taking this perspective to understand the natural world and human affairs. Indeed, as Stahel shows, scale is a central aspect of reality and the oikonomic process, although mostly ignored by standard economics.
Andri Werner Stahel
Chapter 10. Learning to See Again
Abstract
In this chapter, Stahel proposes a radically different approach. Arguing, in line with Goethe and phenomenology, that observation is always active and that what we call reality is always a projection of our consciousness and mind on the received perceptions, the author shows that we cannot assume the existence of objective science and neutrality of the observer. We are part of reality and, through our representations, create this reality. Thus, the need to self-reflectively include the observer into the observation, looking at how we know. Going one step further, in what has been called the linguistic turn in science and philosophy, Stahel discusses the importance of language and how we generate meaning through language.
Andri Werner Stahel
Chapter 11. The Evolution of Consciousness
Abstract
In this chapter, Stahel shows that evolution moves towards higher levels of consciousness. Pointing that individuals and species only survive in the long term if the balances of the larger part they participate in are ensured, Stahel shows that natural selection favours the emergence of symbiotic, cooperative relations between the part and the whole. In this process, increasing behaviour plasticity, diversity, and complexity are promoted, reaching from stable chemical compounds to unicellular, then multicellular and social organisms, up to ecosystems, the biosphere as a whole, and human self-reflectivity. Simultaneously, diversity and polarities push each part to adapt to changing conditions, improving its behaviour plasticity and capacity to respond in ways to ensure its survival and the stability of the whole on which it depends. Thus, higher levels of complexity, diversity, and consciousness emerge from evolution.
Andri Werner Stahel

Human’s Oikonomy

Frontmatter
Chapter 12. Humans as Part of Nature’s Oikonomy
Abstract
In this chapter, Stahel shows that we humans are not separate but part of Nature. Thereby, human oikonomy has to be seen not in opposition but as an extension of Nature’s oikonomy. Taking the example of the rise, growth, and final collapse of the Eastern Island, Stahel shows how we follow a similar pattern now. We, too, are currently unable to halt or redirect our development practices towards balanced and regenerative paths, to enhance our individual and collective wellbeing and our long-term prospects. Instead, we continue to promote chrematistic growth, deplete our natural resources and disturb or destroy the ecological and biospheric balances and dynamics on which our wealth and long-term survival ultimately depend.
Andri Werner Stahel
Chapter 13. Are We in Need of Our Needs?
Abstract
Although the economy is commonly defined as satisfying our human needs by using the limited available resources, no further thought is given by profession to understand better what these needs are. Building on the crucial distinction between needs and satisfiers, Stahel reverses some of the main false assumptions underlying our modern prejudices. He shows that contrary to the standard view, current development practice increases poverty instead of tackling it. Going one step further, the author indicates that oikonomic development is foremost of a qualitative, not a quantitative nature. Reversing the common assumption about needs as being infinite, the author shows that they are few and limited, although the way to satisfy them is potentially unlimited. Thus, Stahel shows that we should be focusing on recovering the proper balances instead of pursuing unsustainable growth.
Andri Werner Stahel
Chapter 14. Money, Cancer, and Finances: Why the Rich Get Rich, and the Poor Stay Poor?
Abstract
In this chapter, the author shows how the growth of speculative financial investments has become the primary source of inequality and unbalances in our contemporary World. Drawing parallelisms with cancer cells in an organism, Stahel shows how the growing financialisation of the oikonomy means that increasingly self-referential monetary growth is draining our World and subordinating real wealth to monetary accumulation. Thus, Stahel shows how the increasing hegemony of financial capital in our contemporary world jeopardises our future and has become the primary source of concern by creating growing wealth and power inequalities.
Andri Werner Stahel
Chapter 15. Conclusion: In Freedom and Responsibility
Abstract
In his conclusions, Stahel summarises the main challenges facing our current World. Going beyond the standard polarity between market freedom and state intervention, the author explores a third and fundamental alternative: conscious and responsible freedom. Showing how oikonomic wealth is created through labour, entrepreneurship, or free cultural activities, Stahel shows that conscious and responsible behaviour means to pay labourers according to their needs to keep producing, advancing entrepreneurs the needed risk capital to innovate and donate to artists, educators, and thinkers alike the resources required for them to create new cultural wealth enriching us all. Moreover, it means to develop balanced relations with Nature, allowing ecosystems to regenerate and produce environmental wealth and resilience. Thereby, the author shows how, by enlarging our consciousness and perspective, we may follow the fundamental social law presented by Rudolf Steiner whereby wealth and wellbeing are maximised by giving to each one according to his needs and each on providing according to his capacities.
Andri Werner Stahel
Backmatter
Metadaten
Titel
Regenerative Oikonomics
verfasst von
Dr. Andri Werner Stahel
Copyright-Jahr
2022
Electronic ISBN
978-3-030-95699-8
Print ISBN
978-3-030-95698-1
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-95699-8

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