The Covid crisis is questioning many of the hidden assumptions of contemporary capitalist economies. Already policy innovations by governments have begun to crack the carapace of business as usual. I suggest here that this includes the hegemony of the neo-classical theory of value – that price determines value, and that rating the social contribution of different sectors, groups of workers and consumption practices is an impertinence. It is not.
What the coronavirus has changed
The spread of Covid-19 and the extraordinary policy reactions of governments around the world are sparking a tsunami of debate and ideas about society, humanity, ecology, culture. One set of questions concerns the nature and purpose of the economy – see Will Davies or Julia Steinberger. And one aspect of the economy thrown into revolutionary relief is the nature of economic value – what activities have value, are essential or critical to survival, prosperity and justice in some way, and what are wasteful or destructive.
Thanking frontline workers
The clash between business-as-usual economics and the pandemic shows what we really need from our economy.
"This fundamental question is the one I ask myself in my research, as an ecological economist. What are the physical things (like energy, materials, infrastructure and so on) we need to live well? To answer it, we must understand what we truly need, and how satisfying our needs connects to well-being.
Well-being theorists Len Doyal and Ian Gough present a compelling picture of human need satisfaction: we all share a finite number of satiable and non-substitutable human needs. According to them,well-being can be understood roughly as a pyramid, with basic need satisfaction at the bottom underpinning physical, mental health and autonomy, culminating in well-being and social participation."
Irish President hosts seminar ‘Rethinking the Role of the State in Fostering a Sustainable and Inclusive Economy’
President Higgins hosted a seminar on 'Rethinking the Role of the State in fostering a Sustainable and Inclusive Economy', at Áras an Uachtaráin. The seminar was the first of a series of initiatives that the President will host during his second term. He is seeking to encourage spaces and actions that will facilitate the necessary steps towards new models of re-defined development, balancing economics, ecology, ethics and social cohesion.
Chaired by Dr. Mary Murphy of Maynooth University, the 12 November seminar heard contributions from President Michael D. Higgins, Professor Mariana Mazzucato and Professor Ian Gough. The seminar was intended as a founding discussion on how to promote the new “ecological-social paradigm” of which the President has been speaking, with a view to reversing social and environmental damage, reducing inequality and lessening the risks to social cohesion.
"Speaking at the event, Prof Ian Gough, an associate at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics, said trying to tackle climate change without dealing with global inequality was “inconceivable”.
He proposed three strategies to deal with this: to improve the eco-efficiency of consumption; to switch from high-carbon to low-carbon consumption; and to reduce the level of consumer demand.