Quotation Bärnthaler, Richard, Novy, Andreas, Plank, Leonhard. 2021. The Foundational Economy as a Cornerstone for a Social–Ecological Transformation. Sustainability. 13 (18), 1-19.




This theoretical paper synthesises research on the foundational economy and its contribution to a social–ecological transformation. While foundational thinking offers rich concepts and policies to transition towards such transformation, it fails to grasp the systematic non-sustainability of capitalism. This weakness can be overcome by enriching contemporary foundational thinking with feminist and ecological economics. Whereas the feminist critique problematises foundational thinking’s focus on paid labour, the ecological critique targets Sen’s capability approach as a key inspiration of foundational thinking, arguing that a theory of human needs is better suited to conceptualise wellbeing within planetary boundaries. Based on this, we outline a novel schema of economic zones and discuss their differentiated contributions to the satisfaction of human needs. By privileging need satisfaction, such broadened foundational thinking demotes the tradable sector and rentier economy, thereby revaluating unpaid work as well as respecting ecological imperatives. This empowers new articulations of social and ecological struggles to improve living conditions in the short run, while having the potential in the long run to undermine capitalism from within.


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Publication's profile

Status of publication Published
Affiliation WU
Type of publication Journal article
Journal Sustainability
Citation Index SSCI
WU-Journal-Rating new STRAT-C
Language English
Title The Foundational Economy as a Cornerstone for a Social–Ecological Transformation
Volume 13
Number 18
Year 2021
Page from 1
Page to 19
Reviewed? Y
URL https://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/13/18/10460
DOI https://doi.org/10.3390/su131810460
Open Access Y
Open Access Link https://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/13/18/10460


Bärnthaler, Richard (Details)
Novy, Andreas (Details)
Plank, Leonhard (Former researcher)
Institute for Multi-Level Governance and Development IN (Details)
Research areas (ÖSTAT Classification 'Statistik Austria')
5325 Political economics (Details)
5422 Feminist issues (Details)
5924 Environmental economics (Details)
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