Embedding the Market in a Superordinate Societal Framework of Sustainability and Justice

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* Article: Peter Ulrich. Civilizing the Market Economy: The Approach of Integrative Economic Ethics to Sustainable Development. Berichte des Instituts für Wirtschaftsethik (Institute for Business Ethics). Discussion Papers of the Institute for Business Ethics No 114

URL = https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Civilizing-the-Market-Economy%3A-The-Approach-of-to-Ulrich/dcf07bbbe8362b5960151b98f35c4306e37ced48

Contextual Quote

"All ecological scarcities are embedded into social conflicts. Our foremost systematic task is to use these scarcities reasonably. This task cannot be resolved within the category of efficiency because it concerns our ethical reason that relates to the reciprocal respect and recognition of the people and to the fair consideration of legitimate claims of everybody on three levels – within a society, internationally and intergenerationally. From this perspective, „sustainable development“ is in the end just a different, almost euphemistic or trivializing term for what denotes the equal rights of all human beings in respect of scarce natural resources. The realization of these equal rights is of course still far away. But in any case, sustainability requires a normative concept which implies the obligation to embed the responsible use of natural resources into a just societal order – and I emphasize societal, not just economic order."

- Peter Ulrich [1]


" As long as the economy is not embedded in a superordinate societal framework the problem of sustainable development cannot be solved within the logic of the market system. The establishment of such a framework is an epochal cultural and political task. The well-known definition of sustainable development by the Brundtland Commission fails to make this clear since it neglects the importance of interpersonal obligations (rights and duties). But from an ethical perspective, interpersonal obligations are essential. The discourse on sustainability is dominated by the technocratic illusion that more “eco-efficiency” of our economic means is enough and that the purposes of our economic activities need not be put into question. Contrary to this illusion, it is argued here that we need to develop a socio-ecological understanding of the problem and to recognize that “sustainable development” after all is just another term for establishing social, international and intergenerational fairness and justice. After raising the awareness for this understanding in the first section, the second section of this paper presents a problem-solving approach that includes four elementary steps of rethinking and establishing socio-ecological policies by means of limiting the inherent necessities of market competition."