Immaterial Growth: Energy and Economics in the American Century

Chris Jones, Assistant Professor, School of Historical, Philosophical, and Religious Studies

Contemporary sustainability challenges are exacerbated by a widespread belief among academics, policymakers, and the broader public that economic growth can continue indefinitely without accounting for environmental stocks and sinks. My historical investigation argues this divide between ecology and economics is not inevitable. Instead, I demonstrate economists used to factor the natural world into their analyses, and only ceased doing so over the last century and a half. My research utilizes the methods of the humanities to illuminate assumptions and contingent developments in the history of economics that reveal alternative ways current environmental debates could be framed.

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