Towards a Rethink of Economics - Overview

See also: Academic Overview; Full Article; Home

The COVID pandemic, biodiversity loss, climate change, pandemics, wars, obesity in affluent cultures, social media stress, poverty, ignoring household activities and their benefits, and many other problems have all been exacerbated, if not caused, by current economic theory and practice, directly and indirectly.

Economics needs to be rethought very deeply and in a new manner. Recent thinkers across many disciplines have begun to recognize these challenges (Mark Carney, Kate Raworth, Marianna Mazzucato, Sir Partha Dasgupta, Tim Jackson, Bob Goudzwaard, and many more), but recommendations are often piecemeal.

After reviewing recent ideas, this Rethink of Economics discusses five ways in which our understanding and practice of economic activity must change, along the lines mentioned by recent thinkers, but going beyond them. It then suggests a conceptual framework with which to systematize and accomplish these changes and enrich the systemization. The conceptual framework comes from Dutch philosophy. The source of enrichment is a Christian perspective.

Origin:

This Rethink of Economics arose from discussions that were instigated by Mark Carney's 2020 Reith Lectures that asked "How do we rethink the economy?". Discussions continued and continue.

Intended readership:

This article is for anyone interested in economics and its impact on the rest of life. It should be particularly relevant to politicians and planners, to academics and media, and even to those who think about life.

For those who do not know much about the details of economics, it provides some explanation. For experts in finance, banking, and economics this article offers wider views, integration of recent ideas, fresh ways of looking at things, and the participants' input from varied experiences - many not in economics as a profession.

The mention of the Christian perspective should not put readers off. This enlivened view comes to the discussions stimulated by viewpoints of LACE: Listen, Affirm, Critique, Enrich - an approach being developed by the UK Christian Academic Network, as a way of engaging with extant ideas, to contribute to the building up of humanity's bodies of knowledge.

Overview:

Economics as it is practised and theorized today - its biases to market transactions, financialization, price, and growth-driven outcomes - is doing a lot of harm to the environment, society, our psychological attitudes, and global economies. Many recent thinkers across varied disciplines recognise the need for radical change. Mark Carney calls us to values and responsibility. Laurent and Dasgupta warn about environmental damage. Goudzwaard, Jackson, and Raworth call us to question adherence to economic growth, with Raworth suggesting Doughnut Economics. Mazzucato and Graeber warn us against unproductivity and "bullshit." Mazzucato urges governments to take on a bold mission to change economics. The Manchester Collective and the UN Statistics Division emphasise the need to value "mundane" work and unpaid household activity. The country of Bhutan offers it famous Gross Happiness Index. Systems thinkers and environmentalists call for a Circular Economy - some address the macro level, some the micro. Around 500 ideas have been published.

The dam that is holding them all back needs to burst and flood the field of economics so that it can once again be fruitful. How may we integrate all this and be ready for other ideas as they emerge? Drawing on the ongoing discussions arising from Mark Carney's 2020 Reith Lectures, a group of Christian thinkers has:

  • Brought together diverse needs and elements of recent economic and well-living thinking;

  • Remained open to the realities of economic activity, however complex, in all its aspects - those of economics as such together with those of environment, justice, joy, health, technology, attitude, faith, etc.;

  • Developed a way of understanding: a suggested integrated understanding which is philosophically sound but also practice-oriented (including a new understanding of money and unpaid activity);

  • Grounded their ideas in good quality philosophy;

  • Cleanly delineated the role of Christian and other religious perspectives to make a genuine contribution (rather than, as sometimes happens, trying to 'dominate').

    The result is what might be called Multi-aspectual Economics, which addresses the embeddeding of economics in the whole of life, multiple values, morality, integration of levels, and responsibility, instead of an isolated, narrow, harmful, fragmented and self-centred economics, as seems to be practised and theorized now. It can embrace the insights from most recent thinking as well as from conventional capitalise and socialist economics, and finally contributions from a Christian (and other religious) perspective are offered.

    This Rethink might prove to be a new paradigm for economics, both its theory and practice.

    How is it Different and Useful?

    How is this different from other ideas, and what are the benefits these differences bring?

  • Mandate: It makes explicit the mandate that Economics (theory and practice) are given in this world. This helps to give a vision to guide both practice and theory of economics.

  • Integration: It offers a way to see most recent ideas as part of an overall picture, into which conventional capitalist and socialist economics also fit; all offer valid insights. This helps us make sense of ideas, so we don't just reject or accept them unquestioningly.

  • Real Good: It draws attention to harmful and useless economic activity, which undermines the good that economics should do, and provides ways to enumerate them. This gets to the root of ways economics goes wrong and offers clear directions for the future.

  • Diversity: It recognises a wide diversity of kinds of value and suggests ways to bring them into account (including biodiversity, climate change, unpaid household activity and even societal attitudes). It provides a systematic way to begin bringing the reality of multiple aspects of life into economics.

  • Money: It treats money very differently, focusing on the human functioning that money enables and encourages. This finds common ground between capitalist and socialist economics, and offers new attitudes.

  • Foundation: It constructs all its thinking on solid philosophical ground. Because of this, the Rethink is no mere pulling-together but has coherence.

  • Reality: It takes the complex, multi-aspectual realities of life into account, not just economic theory. So it is open to many things that are currently overlooked.

  • Inspiration: It avails itself of a Christian perspective to add positive motivation, solution and hope, without imposing religious doctrines. This can provide motivation, challenge and hope.

    See also: Academic Overview; Full Article; Home


    Acknowledgements

    Many contributed to the Rethink of which this is an Overview. Thanks to Neal Ostman for boiling it down and making it less 'academic'.

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    Copyright (c) RLDG 17 June 2022.

    Created: 17 June 2022. Last updated: