economics article 2

What Does Economics Really Know?

  • The widespread application of science and technology has heightened our awareness of how everything is related to everything else in human life, society and the biosphere.
  • It would be reasonable to expect that sooner or later this might help launch a challenge to discipline-based scholarship.
  • It is, after all, a rather peculiar intellectual and professional division of labour unlike anything humanity has used for all but 100 years of its history.
  • It represents a desymbolization of human knowing and doing as a result of a separation from experience and culture (Vanderburg, 2005).
  • Many people have a sense of this when they talk about disciplines and specialties as intellectual or professional “silos”, and pay lip-service to the need for interdisciplinarity.
  • However, all this talk has had little effect on the trade-off between breadth and depth strictly limited by the organization of universities, corporations and government departments (Vanderburg, 2006).
  • In this respect, economics is but one of many disciplines that has little or no knowledge of how the aspects and relations of human life and society it examines are embedded in, interact with, and depend on everything else.
  • Wassily Leontieff, an economist who won the Nobel Prize, put it as follows in a letter to Science: “Page after page of professional economic journals are filled with mathematics formulas leading the reader from sets of more or less plausible but entirely arbitrary assumptions to precisely stated but irrelevant theoretical conclusions…econometricians fit algebraic functions of all possible shapes to essentially the same sets of data without being able to advance, in any perceptible way, a systematic understanding of the structure and operations of a real economic system (1982, pp. 104-105).
  • One of these assumptions deals with the relationship between an economy and the biosphere.
  • According to the laws of thermodynamics (safely out of sight in the intellectual silo of physics), an economy can neither create nor destroy the matter and energy on which it depends, and the transformations of this matter and energy are irreversible.
  • As a result, any economy is a subsystem of the biosphere insofar as its physical dimension is concerned.
  • All economic activities are connected by a network of flows of matter and a network of flows of energy that jointly constitute the technology-based connectedness of society, which I have shown to be the primary constraint on the process of industrialization and, by implication, on economic growth (Vanderburg, 2005).

Herman Daly

Assumption 1 - commodities and factors of production flow circularly

  • As Herman Daly puts it: “The physical dimension of commodities and factors is at best totally abstracted from or left out altogether and at worst assumed to flow in a circle just like exchange value.

Anatomy Example

  • It is as if one were to study physiology solely in terms of the circulatory system without ever mentioning the digestive tract.
  • The dependence of the organism on its environment would not be evident.
  • The absence of the concept of throughput in the economists’ vision means that the economy carries on no exchange with its environment.
  • It is by implication a self-sustaining isolated system, a “perpetual motion machine” (1996, p. 34).
  • Daly goes on to show that this dependence on resources may be neglected if they are not scarce because their supply is infinitely large as compared to the scale of the economy, which in the present world with its environmental crisis is difficult to defend.
  • Instead, the scarcity of resources is dismissed by appealing to the unlimited capabilities of technology, including the resource substitutions it can bring about.
  • Economists cannot easily be dislodged from this lack of realism because of the continued dependence of contemporary cultures on myths, of which technology (symbolizing technique, as we will see shortly) is the central one (Ellul, 1975; Vanderburg, 2005).
  • These secular myths have the same characteristics as the traditional gods of the past, namely, omnipotence in their domains.
  • I believe this to be the primary reason why ecological economists like Daly, who have carried out a reality check on the assumptions made regarding the relationship between the economy and the biosphere, have not yet received the attention they deserve from politicians and decision-makers.


  • Politics is also ruled by a myth, thereby making realistic policies and decisions extremely difficult (Ellul, 1967).
  • Unlimited growth is the expression of the equally unlimited powers of our new secular deities, who will bring many human problems (especially poverty) to an end.
  • Who said that we live in a secular society?


  • Daly (1996) and other ecological economists have shown how the discipline of economics must be restructured based on a realistic assumption about human economies being subsystems of the biosphere.
  • However, much more work will have to be done about the other unrealistic assumptions that underlie modern economics.

Assumption 2 - Capital is the Prime Factor of Production

  • A second assumption, which also strikes at the very heart of modern economics, is that capital continues to be the prime factor of production.
  • It fails to recognize that scientific and technical knowledge has succeeded it in terms of what can be obtained from the other factors: land, labour and capital.
  • Once again economics, like all other intellectual silos, has trouble realizing that the world around it has changed drastically.
  • Two “heretical” analyses have worked out the implications.

John Kenneth Galbraith

  • In the west, John Kenneth Galbraith (1967) clearly saw how the structure of large corporations had to change in order to make use of the most advanced and specialized scientific and technical knowledge, by means of what he called a technostructure.
  • He also recognized that both on the input and output sides, these new corporations could not rely on the Market because they had to plan the entire technological cycle of each product, thus creating a planning system that is now increasingly integrated by enterprise systems linked by satellites and the Internet.
  • Its size is vast: more than half of the world’s 100 largest economies are made up of these corporations.
  • It is astonishing, therefore, that modern economics continues to cling to the Market doctrine and its limitless natural abilities to produce growth, and by means of growth, to solve many global problems.

Weber - Rationality
Ellul - Technique

  • Unfortunately, Galbraith recognized, but did not develop, the fact that what he so well described was integral to a much larger phenomenon, which was examined by Max Weber at the beginning of the 20th century as rationality and later by Jacques Ellul as technique.
  • As a result, he did not take into account the profound influence this factor of production had in many other spheres of endeavor, with far-reaching consequences (Vanderburg, 2005).
  • Radovan Richta (1969) and his colleagues brought the analysis of Karl Marx into the 20th century, and concluded that the influence of highly specialized scientific and technical knowledge had changed everything.
  • It must be remembered that Marx had placed science within the superstructure of society, which corresponded more or less to its role prior to the 20th century.
  • Richta and his colleagues recognized that the struggle for a socialist society now required very different policies and strategies,
  • which was so heretical to the Communist “mother church” that the Soviet tanks quickly snuffed it out.
  • So much for scientific socialism.
  • Jacques Ellul (1964) described the rise of economic techniques and their transforming effects on the economy and society.
  • For reasons we shall examine later, economic “heretics”, including Keynes, Galbraith and Daly, all had to leave the silo of the discipline of economics because they were convinced that the economy should serve people, as opposed to people serving the economy.
  • A little history may do us a lot of good.
  • All the rhetoric about the virtues of the natural Market is so asocial and ahistorical that economists forget that England, the first leading industrial nation, slipped into a depression during the last decades of the 19th century.
  • When Germany became the leading industrial nation because it was the first to use scientific and technical knowledge in the service of technological and economic growth, it suffered most acutely from the scourges of industrial civilization, namely, unemployment and inflation.


  • Not only were there all the difficulties of forcing a living community into the mechanism of the Market,
  • as demonstrated by Karl Polanyi (2001),
  • but the Market was unable to do its job in a great many domains (such as the work of children),
  • and it was unable to prevent one economic crisis after another.
  • The problems of industrial civilization during the first half of the 20th century were temporarily remedied by John Maynard Keynes,
  • who argued that the scourge of unemployment was far more serious than that of inflation for the majority of people.
  • Keynesian economics did manage to stabilize the economies of the industrially advanced world for several decades following the Second World War.
  • When it began to fail, this was not because it was intrinsically flawed due to its interference in the Market.
  • Keynesian economics almost certainly failed because of the influence of scientific and technical knowledge as the new prime factor of production,
  • which negatively affected the ratio of desired to undesired effects of technological and economic growth (Vanderburg, 2005, 2006).

Ellul - Technique

  • Technique created what Jacques Ellul called the “wager of the 20th century”
  • (the literal translation of the French title of the book published as The Technological Society).
  • Before the rise of technique, human cultures (through the process of symbolization) attempted to make sense of and live in a world in which everything related to everything else (Vanderburg, 1985, 2005).
  • Science and technique ignore this messy and uncontrollable complexity in order to know and improve one element and one aspect at a time, with the assumption that these piecemeal advances will improve the whole.
  • The commonplace that “the whole is more than the sum of the parts” did not prevent our human, social and environmental crises.
  • As noted in Part 1, the growing intellectual and professional division of labour allows no other option than improving everything on its own terms, that is, in terms of its ability to deliver the greatest desired outputs from requisite inputs as measured by output/input ratios (including efficiency, productivity, and profitability).
  • No attention can be paid to how this improvement in performance affects the internal integrality and external context-compatibility of whatever is made “better” in this way.
  • This has been quantitatively demonstrated for the technology-related professions and specialties (Vanderburg, 2000).
  • The rise of the phenomenon of technique spreads these tendencies to all areas of contemporary ways of life, completely eradicating the distinction between an economy and the “superstructure” of human life and society (Vanderburg, 2005).
  • As a result, the costs incurred in technical and economic growth began to outstrip the production of wealth, gradually increasing in the decades following the Second World War.
  • For example, during this time, technological change contributed more to the environmental burden imposed by the U.S. on the environment than population growth and rising levels of affluence combined (Vanderburg, 2000).
  • These findings converge with those of Daly (1996): the scale of the economic subsystem has become uneconomic.
  • From within the silo of the discipline of economics these developments were invisible.
  • Hence, an explanation for the growing economic troubles had to be found within the silo itself.
  • The results were entirely predictable: Keynesian economics had interfered with the “natural” Market, and we were now paying the price.
  • Monetarism became the new reigning secular “theology”, despite its dubious factual basis.
  • To this was added the doctrine of a “natural” rate of unemployment, which was the level of unemployment required to avoid an increase in inflation.
  • Any attempt to reduce unemployment below this “natural” level might be successful for a short time,
  • but this would then have to be paid for by the long-term problem of runaway inflation. T
  • his doctrine also has no factual basis, since it was premised on unemployed workers acting against their own interests and those of their families and communities.
  • As many observers have noticed, in an industrial civilization there is no better way of depriving people of their self-respect than by denying them the possibility of making a useful contribution to their lives, families and communities.
  • Once again, human nature was assumed to be what the econometric models required, much like the erroneous assumption of homo economicus.
  • The implications were devastating for millions of people condemned to needless unemployment because governments followed Friedman’s advice by concentrating on controlling inflation, regardless of unemployment levels.
  • In Canada, we had no Thatchers, Reagans or Bushes, but the Ministry of Finance persuaded the government to go to an even greater extreme by raising interest rates up to five full points higher than those in the U.S., thereby choking growth, pushing unemployment to 11% and accounting for much of the deficit.
  • This drama of doctrinaire pseudo-scientific monetarism gone completely out of control was courageously explained to the general public by Linda McQuaig (1998).
  • The irony was that the Liberal government had undermined the common good to a greater extent than any Conservative government had dared to undertake.
  • The entire political spectrum bowed before the new mantra: Unless governments eliminate their deficit, they will be disciplined by the “natural” Market.
  • The relationship between people and the economy was reversed: People now had to serve this “natural” economy because it was in their long-term interest to do so, regardless of the consequences to their lives and communities.
  • So much for democracy.
  • The victory of monetarism within the silo of the discipline of economics is easily explained, but this does not answer the question of its widespread acceptance on the outside.
  • It must be remembered that inflation is a central preoccupation of the wealthy and not so much of the general population,
  • which is much more concerned with employment.
  • This begs the question whether monetarism had more to do with serving a powerful element of society than with its scientific soundness and originality.
  • All this undoubtedly is a factor, but I believe there is a much more decisive one.
  • These economic theories fit our current secular myths, which tell us that science is omnipotent in the domain of human knowing and technique in the domain of human doing.
  • Hence, our problems cannot come from this new factor of production because contemporary cultures have declared science and technique to be the absolute good in their respective domains.
  • By declaring the Market to be “natural” (not to be confused with the attempts of ecological economics to recognize the physical basis of an economy), problems had to be attributed to interference in “economic nature”.
  • Economists spoke in the name of science; and their barrage of facts, equations and mathematical theories made it appear to be as exact as physics.

Assumption 3 - Productivity increases come from labour not energy and natural resources

  • A third assumption holds that economics should seek to improve the productivity of labour instead of that of natural resources and energy.
  • The supposedly near-limitless powers of technology are deemed to ensure an almost complete substitutability of one resource and process for another,
  • with the result that any scarcity related to an inability of the biosphere to sustain human economies can be prevented.
  • Such a perspective implies that technological and economic growth continues to be based on the improvement of the productivity of the other factors of production, especially labour.
  • This growth has completely distorted the balance between the productivity of materials and energy on the one hand, and that of human labour on the other: it over-consumes the biosphere and under-consumes the capabilities of humanity.
  • There is no possibility of a genuine development without redressing this imbalance.
  • Fortunately, there is no lack of means for doing so (Vanderburg, 2000).
  • Their implementation, however, would require sweeping changes, beginning with a complete restructuring of engineering education and practice.
  • Generally speaking, the prime factor of production of highly-specialized knowledge will have to be reorganized across the board — a subject to which we will return in Part 3.
  • It should be noted that the second erroneous assumption combines with the third to create high levels of preventable unemployment and underemployment, with devastating effects on people and their communities.
  • A fourth unrealistic assumption underlying modern economics is that of homo economicus.
  • Here the silo effect of our current intellectual and professional division of labour reaches its pinnacle: forget psychology, sociology, cultural anthropology, history and religious studies, and conveniently delimit the complexity of human life into individual utility- maximizing mechanisms.
  • With these inconvenient human beings and societies out of the way, there are no longer any constraints on these mechanisms, and greed can reign unchallenged.
  • It should come as no surprise that from this perspective, economics can develop the most bizarre explanations.
  • We have already mentioned one of the most devastating examples, namely, “natural unemployment levels”.
  • Having washed away all emotions, self-respect, role in the family, status in the community and anxiety about having enough in old age, the explanation that what is left is simply “natural” amounts to the assumption that human nature is now anything that suits the mathematical models.
  • Human well-being is now reduced to consumptive throughput, and the common good is replaced with the self-interest-maximizing activities of politicians and public servants turned into bureaucrats (as typefied in public choice theory).
  • In the same vein, John Kenneth Galbraith’s (1967) theory of the revised sequence is unthinkable.
  • Economists assume that the homo economicus mechanism maximizes utility without the interference of external influences from advertising, which persuades no one but only informs people.
  • Imagine if Galbraith’s revised sequence really reflected what goes on in a consumer society.
  • We might have to consider such non-objective ideas as economic democracy, human freedom and justice.
  • The trouble with modern economics is that human beings have always been motivated by their cultures, which are diametrically opposed to any maximization schemes.
  • Except for the last 100 years, cultural values have always measured the improvement of anything in terms of its contribution to the socio-cultural context and not on its own terms (by means of output/input ratios like efficiency, productivity, profitability and GDP).
  • The policies arrived at by classical and neo-classical economics intensely exacerbated the desymbolization of human cultures brought on by industrialization (Vanderburg, 2005).
  • After all, a universal science and technology and the push for economic growth assume that one size fits all, thereby destroying the kind of diversity that brought us appropriate technologies and sustainable ways of life. Nor does modern economics understand the transformation of homo economicus into homo informaticus (Vanderburg, 2005).
  • Mainstream economics is ill-prepared to tackle one of the most fundamental issues facing industrially advanced economies:
  • the building of theories and models that can account for the role of theoretical knowledge and for our dependence on the biosphere.
  • The contributions of knowledge and the biosphere are not easily commoditized to be incorporated into a Market mechanism;
  • and this could well bring down the entire theoretical structure of mainstream economics.
  • These limitations are further exacerbated by those set out in the next two sections.
  • The Status of Economics and its Practitioners
  • As noted in Part 1, industrialization involved a dramatic increase in the throughput of matter and energy, and hence a tightening of the thermodynamic constraints on it.
  • For the first time in human history, this technology-based connectedness of human life and society began to dominate the culture-based connectedness (Vanderburg, 1985, 2005).
  • This created a distinct economy, which became regarded as the foundation for the “superstructure” of human life and society.
  • It had to be organized by the Market,
  • whereas human life and society continued to be ordered by means of culture.
  • The wealth produced by an economy now became the lifeblood of human life and society.
  • As a result, economics focused on the very essence of human life,
  • which made economists the new secular “high priests” of the new order based on the making of money.


  • All this was legitimated in an ultimate way by the new secular myths of progress, happiness and work, ruled over by the central myth of capital (Vanderburg, 2005).
  • The new gods banished the old ones and ordered society to live “by bread alone”,
  • because only then would everything be possible.
  • This was obvious to everyone.
  • Every year machines were becoming bigger and faster,
  • every year there were more factories full of these machines,
  • and every year the collective output of these factories increased.
  • Soon everyone’s material needs would be met,
  • with the result that all this ingenuity could then turn to resolving our social and even our spiritual problems.
  • Hence, the authority of economics and its practitioners owed much to the new gods on behalf of whom they spoke.
  • Today this secular religious authority of economics continues.
  • As noted, the central myth of technique now rules along with the other secular deities: science and history.
  • With the absolute authority of science behind them and armed with the pseudo-scientific mathematical precision of economic models, economic “theology” has been firmly established.
  • Forgotten are the warnings of the Jewish and Christian traditions against the creation of gods and the troubles these gods create for any community.
  • The new secular gods are now global, ruling over a new order of free trade, which makes the world “free” for technique by preventing any democratic resistance based on the grounds that technique must serve us rather than the other way around.

The Consequences of Economic Theories

  • As far as the consequences of the application of economics are concerned, it would appear that once again we have fallen into the trap from which Marx sought to rescue the economists of his day.
  • Suppose the community of practitioners had come up with a completely factual, accurate and objective description of the economic patterns and regularities in human life and society at a particular time in their history.
  • What was to be done with such an economic model?
  • For the physiocrats of the 19th century, such a model constituted a description of what was “natural”.
  • In other words, it was like the laws of physics, which applied whether or not people liked them, whether or not they were good or bad for people, and so on.
  • For Marx, the situation was the exact opposite.
  • These economic patterns and regularities were human creations.
  • They were not inscribed in nature, and they certainly had not descended from above.
  • Hence, it was essential to accept responsibility for what we had created.
  • The real question was: What did these patterns and regularities imply for human life and society?
  • Which aspects were good and which were bad, just and unjust, sustainable and unsustainable?
  • For Marx, the answer was clear: capitalism was an economic system that alienated the rich and the poor alike.
  • This enslavement of society by a system was unacceptable.
  • Something had to be done about it: economic policies had to be formulated to ensure that the system was to serve people and not the other way around.
  • Max Weber came to similar conclusions.
  • If the phenomenon of rationality was shutting humanity into an “iron cage”,
  • something had to be done to ensure that we would not end up serving what we had created to serve us.
  • John Kenneth Galbraith pointed out the same thing with respect to the new industrial state.
  • Jacques Ellul, examining the widespread influence of technique on human life and society, concluded that technique added reification to alienation.
  • Regardless of our moral, religious and political differences, is there anyone among us who would argue that slavery is an acceptable form of human life?
  • Have we not agreed that this is unacceptable?
  • Why should it be any different for economic alienation?
  • This brings us back to the monetarists and their assertions that the Market is “natural”, that there is a “natural” rate of unemployment,
  • that the Market can and will discipline governments that stray from what is “natural”, and so on.
  • The question of human responsibility has been conveniently eliminated.
  • We are not responsible for the law of gravity,
  • but we certainly bear a responsibility for the kind of economy we maintain or change,
  • and for its effects on life, both present and future.
  • In other words: I would argue that the great economic divide is between those who recognize that the economy is a human creation that must serve the public good,
  • and those who say that it is “natural” and must be respected as such.
  • It is the divide between economics as praxis, and economics as a secular religion based on an absolutized and natural good.
  • It is a divide between what is open to democratic control by a civic society,
  • and the servitude of what cannot be questioned.
  • It is a divide between the possibility of the economy serving the public good and the denial of such a possibility.
  • It ultimately is a divide between economic freedom and slavery.
  • On another level, the economic divide is between those who, in one way or another, consciously or unconsciously, recognize the dangers of economics in the service of technique and those who are committed to economic technique.


  • The difference can be clarified by reflecting on what is involved in the creation of economic concepts and theories.
  • By means of symbolic concepts, humanity has always attempted to make human life and the world more intelligible.
  • It involves the simplification of an unintelligible complexity into an intelligible one by including those aspects and relationships that are important,
  • marginalizing those that are less so
  • and omitting those that appear to be irrelevant.
  • If this is to be done consistently, it must be guided by a purpose in relation to which the relevance of any detail can be decided.
  • Consequently, such models are integral to, and potentially enhance, the symbolic universe of sense.
  • The value of such models does not rest on their factuality or objectivity.

Medical Example

  • For example, the description of a disease in a medical textbook may list a variety of symptoms, of which different patients may exhibit different subsets.
  • The medical student does not conclude that the description in the textbook is not a factual one and hence worthless.


  • We are back to the observation made by Wittgenstein (1953)
  • that the members of a linguistic category share a network of criss-crossing and overlapping family resemblances.
  • The purpose of the description in the medical textbook is to support students in their attempt to practice medicine.
  • In the same vein, economic models that make sense have an underlying purpose of serving the common good.
  • The art of economic practice is in creating those models that make economic life as intelligible as possible in the context of that purpose,
  • in order to support the formulation of policies that will permit the evolution of that economic life to do as much good with as little harm as possible,
  • in accordance with the values of a community.
  • Contemporary econometrics broke with all this by its reliance on the technical approach as opposed to the cultural approach based on symbolization and sense.

Four Steps of the Technical Approach

  • The technical approach may be described in terms of four steps.

1. Look for Improvements

  • First, the economic aspects of human life and society are examined in order to explore possibilities of improvement.

2. build a model

  • Second, the findings are used to build a formal mathematical model.

3. optimize variables to maximize performance

  • Next, the parameters of the model are systematically varied, and the resulting forms are correlated with performance, as opposed to what is best for human life and society.
  • (After all, this would require a knowledge of a great many other disciplines).
  • Performance is measured in terms of output/input ratios related to the economy.

4. Formulate theories of the one best way

  • Finally, the findings are used to formulate theories for achieving the desired results.
  • Since the orientation of this technical approach is toward performance,
  • the economy is implicitly and explicitly reoriented toward growth and the production of wealth.
  • All this contributes to the creation of an order of non-sense: an order that is constructed without reference to its significance to the meaning and value for human life, society and the biosphere (Vanderburg, 2005).
  • It invites single-minded obsessions such as the ongoing preoccupation with reducing inflation at almost any cost.
  • It also opens the door to the possibility that this approach to economic growth may turn money into anti-money (i.e. a collective debt),
  • and the economy into an anti-economy that extracts rather than creates wealth (Vanderburg, 2008).
  • Additional difficulties appear when we examine the individual steps in the above technical approach.
  • The data set itself is problematic.
  • There exists a close relationship between a theory and the data on which it is built.
  • Simply put: the theories and statistical correlations established by a discipline essentially determine what is relevant,
  • marginally relevant and irrelevant.
  • If challenges are mounted to these theories and correlations, it almost always involves an awareness that some aspects of the world previously deemed marginally relevant or irrelevant turn out to be relevant.
  • Such a change would occur when scientific and technical knowledge become regarded as a prime factor of production,
  • and the economy becomes a subsystem of the biosphere.
  • It is also possible that certain economic aspects studied for one purpose are later used for another.
  • For example, this happened when the measure used to estimate the tax revenue of the U.S. government during the Second World War later became the Gross National Product (GNP),
  • which measured the total value of goods and services produced by the economy.
  • What mattered initially was simply the taxable gross wealth, and not net wealth production.
  • However, when it was used for quite a different purpose,
  • other details should have been considered and included in both the data and the index.
  • Similarly, the rate of inflation is very different for people near the bottom of the income hierarchy than for those near the top.
  • The former spend nearly all their income on basic necessities, hence the rate of inflation they experience is that of the prices of these necessities.
  • People in the middle income bracket experience a different rate of inflation, and so on.
  • However, the rate published by governments conveniently avoid any consideration of social equity and justice.
  • The same is true for the way unemployment levels are measured.
  • Significant changes over the years raise serious concerns regarding the real purpose of these statistics.
  • Much of the economic data collected by governments, and thus the policies based on them, involve these kinds of implicit and explicit assumptions, which are rarely carefully examined.
  • The building of economic models with these data is problematic, for another reason.
  • The theories and statistical correlations originate as mathematical models derived from essentially interpolating the data and correlating the findings with other results.
  • When a new economic policy is formulated, its consequences are explored by means of these mathematical models.
  • In other words, the unknown is assumed to be an extrapolation of the known.
  • In many situations, this is not at all scientific or reasonable.
  • The mathematical models refer to a living human and social reality that is highly enfolded and dialectical in nature,
  • and thus the opposite of a logical domain (Vanderburg, 2005).
  • In addition, many aspects deemed irrelevant from the perspective of these models may turn out to introduce a highly non-linear behaviour.
  • If economic policies are to help us achieve livable and sustainable ways of life, they must initiate non-cumulative changes that cannot be inferred from or predicted by input-output tables or econometric approaches.
  • Hopefully sooner rather than later, we will outgrow the simplistic notion that economic growth is the answer to most of our problems.
  • We may then be ready to face the fact that the economies of the future will have to accomplish very different things.
  • It is not only the transition to an era that is less and less reliant on fossil fuels and derivative materials that is likely to profoundly affect industrial production, transportation, agriculture and much more.


  • Many other issues will have to be dealt with.
  • How sustainable is the current anti-democratic orientation of monetarism and free trade?
  • How much longer can we continue to widen the gap between the very wealthy and the vast majority of humanity?
  • How much longer can we fight inflation regardless of the consequences to the poorest people and nations?
  • How much longer can we mask a decline in net wealth by an increasingly unjust income distribution?
  • How much longer will democracy mean anything when economic policies no longer serve the public good?
  • Ultimately, can any quality of life be assured by economic policies that make no reference to sense?
  • Part 3 will examine the possibility of creating alternative economic policies that make sense and that can make a contribution to turning technological and economic growth into genuine development.


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Can the University Escape from the Labyrinth of Technology? Part 1: Rethinking the Intellectual and Professional Division of Labour and Its Knowledge Infrastructure, Bulletin of Science, Technology and Society, 26 (3), 171-177.

Can the University Escape from the Labyrinth of Technology? Part 2: Intellectual Map Making and the Tension between Breadth and Depth, Bulletin of Science, Technology and Society, 26(3), 178-188.

Can the University Escape from the Labyrinth of Technology? Part 3: A Strategy for Transforming the Profession, Bulletin of Science, Technology and Society, 26(3), 189-203.

Can the University Escape from the Labyrinth of Technology? Part 4: Extending the Strategy to Medicine, the Social Sciences and the University, Bulletin of Science, Technology and Society, 26(3), 204-216.

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