Towards a Philosophy of a Bio-Based Economy: A Levinassian Perspective on the Relations Between Economic and Ecological Systems

Environmental Values 30 (2):169-192 (2021)
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This paper investigates the fundamental idea at stake in current bioeconomies such as Europe's Bio-Based Economy. We argue that basing an economy upon ecology is an ambivalent effort, causing confusion and inconsistencies, and that the dominant framing of the damaged biosphere as a market-failure in bioeconomies such as the BBE is problematic. To counter this dominant narrative, we present alternative conceptualisations of bio-economies and indicate which concepts are overlooked. We highlight the specific contradictions and discrepancies in the relation between economy and ecology, and then work towards outlining a genuine and consistent conceptualisation of the BBE. The philosophical perspective of Emmanuel Levinas is employed to develop a more profound understanding of the tensions at stake; Levinas' work is compared with that of Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen's work on bioeconomics, and found to be of complementary value. Our hypothesis is that, rather than the impossible, absolute amalgamation of economy and ecology striven for today, a principal heterogeneity between humankind and nature must be acknowledged if a bioeconomy that truly operates within the carrying capacity of planet Earth is to be achieved.

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Vincent Blok
Wageningen University and Research