The Inbetween of Modern Economy. From Competition to Complementarity

F. Suárez Müller, Sjoerd Robijn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This paper draws on recent ideas of general systems theory which show that in the biological world exponential growth curves belong to a particular development phase of self-organizing living beings. Alexei Kurakin has shown that this ‘competitive phase’ is followed by a ‘complementary phase’ in which a relatively sustainable relationship between living beings and their environment is achieved. This has consequences for economic theory. The rules of ‘modern economies’ are not compatible with the rules of ecosystems. In this paper we shall explore to what extent our economy can be characterized as already going beyond the modern type, approaching an Economy for the Common Good. We define our economy as being in between the competitive and complementary phase. In addition to this, since our culture is not primarily steered by natural selection but by human decision-making, we need to factor in an ethical dimension. To do this we use the idea that Nico Stehr – in line with Hegel – has called a ‘moralization of the economy’ which is when ethical responsibility becomes the guiding principle of all economic transactions. The moralization of the economy encompasses not only environmental ends (the naturalization of the economy understood as a fitting of the economy into nature) but also the production of nonmaterial goods (the humanization of the economy) that benefit the ethical, social and cultural life of everyone. It is fruitful to use biologically inspired systems theory but this must be complemented with the idea of a moralization of the economy.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages37
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2018

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