Professors Albritton Jonsson and Wennerlind’s recently published book, “Scarcity” by Harvard University Press, offers interpretations of a key concept in economic theory: scarcity, or the belief we live in a world of limited resources and therefore must master the natural world to meet desired needs. The authors state, “the book does not offer a critique of the usefulness of the neoclassical concept of scarcity, instead, the problem we highlight is that it has been far too successful,” that is “by promoting optimal use of resources and maximum economic growth, it has fostered a world in which the economy and nature are on a collision course.” As a result our economic success has endangered both our health and survival via the use of fossil fuels to power our economy.
This 37-minute interview begins with brief descriptions of two umbrella categories of scarcity the authors define: Cornucopian; and, Finitarian. They identify subcategories within these two categories and thinkers throughout history who can be categorized into sub-categories of scarcity of, e.g., enlightened, capitalist and neoclassical and neo-Aristotelian, Utopian, Malthusian, Romantic, Socialist and Planetary. The authors comment on Diamandis and Kotler’s argument regarding negativity bias. They discuss the benefit of taking a long view, here 500 years, to free today’s thinkers of taking alternative views of the world to challenge current dominate neoclassical view of scarcity and economics and discuss the book concluding on the the concept of repair.
Frederik Albritton Jonsson is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Chicago and Carl Wennerlind is a Professor of History and Chair of the History Department at Barnard College at Columbia University.
The authors bios are at: https://history.uchicago.edu/directory/fredrik-albritton-jonsson and and https://history.barnard.edu/profiles/carl-wennerlind.
Information on the book can be found at: https://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674987081.