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This paper aims at gaining a better understanding of the inherent paradoxes within sustainability discourses by investigating its basic assumptions. Drawing on a study of the metaphoric references operative in moral language, we reveal the predominance of the ‘well-being = wealth’ construct, which may explain the dominance of the ‘business case’ cognitive frame in sustainability discourses (Hahn et al. in Acad Manag Rev 4015:18–42, 2015a). We incorporate economic well-being variables within a philosophical model of becoming well (Küpers in Cult Organ 11(3):221–231, 2005), highlighting the way in which these variables consistently articulate a combination of ‘objective’ and ‘subjective’ concerns. We then compare this broad understanding of well-being with the metaphors operative in the sustainable development discourse and argue that the sustainability discourse has fallen prey to an overemphasis on the ‘business case’. We proceed to draw on Georges Bataille to challenge the predominance of these value priorities and to explore which mindshifts are required to develop a more comprehensive understanding of what is needed to enable ‘sustainable development’.
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- Sustainable Development and Well-Being: A Philosophical Challenge
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