SURVEYEvolutionary psychology in ecological economics: consilience, consumption and contentment
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AbstractThis paper makes the case that if ecological economics seeks ‘consilience’ with biology it must acquaint itself with evolutionary theories about social development and human behaviour. The author reviews some of the literature in this area. Particular attention is paid to the newly emerging discipline of evolutionary psychology, which sets out a neo-Darwinian view of human nature in which individual and social behaviour is dominated by the evolutionary strategies of the ‘selfish gene’. The paper discusses the relevance of this perspective for two specific ‘problem areas’ in ecological economics. The first of these is the question of consumption and consumer behaviour. The second is the problem of ‘mismatch’ between the pursuit of economic growth and social well-being or contentment. These examples illustrate that evolutionary psychology may sometimes provide a natural ally for ecological economics, in particular pointing up certain failures of conventional economics. On the other hand, it also offers harsh lessons concerning the difficulty of changing evolved behaviour patterns. The paper suggests three possible avenues of response by ecological economists to the insights of evolutionary psychology.

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