A Critical Theory of economy? Sustainability and emancipation

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This chapter explores how a specific analysis of capitalism in recent critical theory can contribute to understanding the relationship between economy and sustainability. Through a reading of Nancy Fraser and Rahel Jaeggi’s book Capitalism – a Conversation in Critical Theory the chapter discusses how critical theory could be helpful for understanding the unsustainable results of capitalist economy in an analytical framework, which integrates several dimensions of sustainability. The book portrays capitalism as characterized by being in a contradictory relationship with its non-economic background conditions (of nature, social reproduction and public power), and is useful for understanding the unsustainability of the current economic system. The chapter then discusses the relation between emancipation and sustainability, because critical theory operates with an emancipatory aim, but does not use the language of sustainability. Subsequently it discusses if this framework could also help us to formulate and envision new imaginaries or theories of more sustainable economies, and how critical theory can provide criteria for emancipatory ideas and practices, which might give directions for new ideas about economy. Fraser and Jaeggi’s book does not provide us with any substantial content for a new theory of economy, and it is argued that it would have been interesting if the book had dared a bit more in that regard. The chapter concludes that the critical analysis in itself is valuable for understanding sustainability and a task for future research could be to develop an emancipatory concept of sustainability.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNew Economies for Sustainability : Limits and Potentials for Possible Futures
EditorsLuise Li Langergaard
Number of pages18
Publication date2022
ISBN (Print)978-3-030-81742-8
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-030-81743-5
Publication statusPublished - 2022
SeriesSpringer Series Ethical Economy: Studies in Economic Ethics and Philosophy

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