On the nature of sustainable Economic systems

World Futures 51 (3):199-221 (1998)


A sustainable system has all the essential characteristics of an organism?an irreducible whole that develops, maintains and reproduces, or renews, itself by mobilizing material and energy captured from the environment. What is the nature of the material and energy mobilization that makes an organism? I begin with a brief description of a tentative theory of the organism?developed in detail elsewhere (Ho, 1993; 1994a; 1995a,b; 1996b,c)?as a dynamically and energetically closed domain of cyclic non?dissipative processes coupled to irreversible dissipative processes, which effectively frees the organism from thermodynamic constraints so that it is poised for rapid, specific intercommunication, enabling it to function as a coherent whole. I shall then show how this novel theoretical framework may begin to provide normative criteria for sustainable economic systems, thereby also exposing some of the inadequacies of current models and assumptions

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