Econosystemics: Why Do We Need a New Word?

Economics is perhaps most simply and comprehensively be defined as:  the study of the exchange of value among humans.

Why then introduce a new word, EconoSystemics?

First, because we can no longer distinguish the economy from the ecosystem.

earthlights2_dmsp_bigThe boundaries have disappeared.  There is little wild left.  Value is exchanged between the cow species and the human species, for example, and through every strand of this planet’s biological web with every other species, high and lowly.   We cannot thrive outside of our biological matrix.  Econosystemics goes beyond the human economy, and recognizes ecosystem-wide cooperation, competition, and exchange of value.

Second, because economics overemphasizes econometrics, the measurement of transactions, and underemphasizes system dynamics.

Economics keeps evolving because the economy keeps evolving, inventing new ways to transform available energy and resources into value:  there are always new kinds of transactions for economists to measure.  Econosystemics asks us to look beyond the immediate pattern of transactions and consider more how that pattern of transactions is changing.

In other words, Economics studies the system of  value transactions among humans;
Econosystemics studies the dynamic system of value transformations within the planetary ecosystem.

Econosystemics blends economics not only with sociology but with biology.
Economics encourages us to look to our own profit, or the profit of our clan.  Econosystemics asks us to identify with a larger process in which value must flow cyclically rather than linearly.

Now, before you protest that these are not unconsidered notions within the community of economists, let me acknowledge that many economists are making significant contributions to econosystemics.  We could just let the definition of economics expand to include econosystemics.  But the value of the new word is that it highlights a critical shift in thinking, and makes it more visible to the general educated population.  Econosystemics has the “system” root built right in, and so forces us to think in terms of system interactions over time, rather than individual transactions in time.

What do you think?  I look forward to some discussion on this topic, so please do add a comment below!

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3 Responses

  1. Vijay says:

    I think you have just taken the ideas of ecological economics and made up a new name. See

  2. Bryan K Long says:

    Hi Vijay, thanks for the comment. Perhaps I should have specifically referenced Ecological Economics in my last paragraph, and I apologize for not having already gotten the links to USSEE and ISEE posted on the sidebar – and of course there are many other links to be added. I do not seek to diminish in any way the contributions of the “ecological economists” — rather, I seek to promote them! Ecological Economics sounds like a specialty within a discipline, like “micro-biologist” or “orthopedic surgeon”. But ecological economists are moving up to a “bigger view” of economics. So I would say that Daly, Boulding, Georgescu-Roegen, and others were really the pioneering Econosystemists. Innumerable people have taken economics in college, or read economics related books, and so they think they know economics. But what they mostly know is classical and neo-classical economics. Probably the majority of Economics 101 classes still ignore the ecological economists, because, after all, that is a specialty subset for more advanced courses. That attitude has to change! Econosystemics, as a new word, is a signal: here is something bigger. Econosystemics is the larger context that should be taught before the subsets of classical and neoclassical economics!

  3. Eron Lloyd says:

    Economics literally translates into “managing the home,” or Earth, in the larger sense. The problem with modern economics is not in the name, but in the missing piece from most analysis: land. Classical economics paid attention to the land factor of production, but neo-classical economics nearly eliminated it.

    Geo-classical economics (or geonomics) reintegrates this essential component and allows economics to fulfill its role in managing Earth’s resources. It also reintroduces society to the original concept of land rent and the impact of both negative and positive externalities.