Education and Science for a Sustainable Economy

“To make abstractions hold in reality is to destroy reality.” (G.W.F. Hegel, Lectures on the History of Philosophy)

The problem: a legitimacy crisis

Since 2008 the economic sciences have faced a blatant crisis of legitimacy. Only a limited number of economists predicted the imminent crash of international financial markets, and retrospective analyses of the causes were in part contradictory. Ever since, the image of major economic research institutes has noticeably suffered. This loss of influence in the area of political advice and the additional loss of their legitimacy in the media and civil society has led to a defensive mood on the part of economists, leaving little space for critical self-reflection.

Critics of the orthodox school are finding increasing sympathy in the public eye. The bestsellers in economic literature in recent years were written not just by orthodox economists, but also by “heterodox economists”, who consider economics primarily as a social science and point out how orthodox fallacies have led to a misguided “excess of reliance on mathematics and abstraction of practical cultural, historical, political contexts” (for example the works of David Graeber: “Debt. The First 5000 Years”, and Tomáš Sedláček: “The Economy of Good and Evil”).

The diagnosis made by plural and heterodox economists focuses on the following points of criticism: the abstract model-type worlds of neoclassical equilibrium economics are applied to reality without taking the social environment into account, thus rendering sustainable economics inconceivable. Moreover, orthodox economists’ use of a hermetical terminology creates a disconnect between them and their audiences in politics, media and civil society. Knowledge in the fields of social science and the humanities including economic history, scientific theory, and ethics turns into a marginal phenomenon of academia. This has resulted in a growing speechlessness where comprehensive interaction and an exchange of opinions is necessary. Mathematically orientated economists keep to themselves and the gap to colleagues outside of the mainstream, as well as to society as a whole, widens: there is plenty of talk about one another, rarely with one another.

Since 2014 the Canopus Foundation has been a shareholder of the HUMBOLDT-VIADRINA Governance Platform (HVGP) gGmbH in Berlin; since 2015 it has been supporting the creation of Cusanus Hochschule (Engl.: Cusanus University) in Bernkastel-Kues, Germany. Both institutions are committed to supporting plural economics in their respective fields, in the organization of events, and in research and teaching.