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 face a blatant crisis of legitimacy. Only a limited number of economists predicted the imminent crash of international financial markets, even retrospective analyses of the causes were partly contradicting. As a result, the reputation of central economic advisory bodies, such as the “Sachverständigenrat zur Begutachtung der gesamtwirtschaftlichen Entwicklung (SVA)” (engl. “Expert Council for Assessment of Overall Economic Development”) has suffered: “That a government can ignore the advice (of the SVA) so evidently is also due to the fact that economic research experts have jeopardised the voters’ trust.” (transl. from Patrick Bernau: „Abhängige Ökonomen“, in: FAZ vom 5.9.2015 (German)). Such a loss of influence in the field of political consulting and the additional damage to legitimacy in the media and civil society has led to defensive behaviour of economists, leaving little space for critical self-reflection.

The critics of the orthodox tradition of economics, however, are increasingly recognised by the public. The best sellers of economic literature in recent years were written less by orthodox economists than by “heterodox economists”, who consider economics primarily as a social science and point out how orthodox fallacies have led to a misguided “excess reliance on mathematics and abstraction of practical cultural, historical, political contexts”. Some exemplary works are by David Graeber: "Debt. The First 5000 Years", and Thomas Sedlacek: "The Economy of Good and Evil".

The diagnosis of the 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 doing justice to social framework conditions in the least degree, detrimental to a sustainable economy. Moreover, the orthodox economists’ use of a hermetical terminology creates a disconnect between experts and their addressees in politics, media and civil society. Knowledge in the fields of social science and humanities including economic history, philosophy of science and ethics remain a marginal phenomenon in economic research and education. This has resulted in a rising speechlessness in areas where comprehensive interaction and an exchange of opinions would be necessary. The mathematically oriented economists stay among themselves and the gap to the colleagues off the “mainstream”, as well as to society as a whole, widens: there is much talk about each other, rarely with each other.

Since 2014, the Canopus Foundation is shareholder of the HUMBOLDT-VIADRINA Governance Platform (HVGP) gGmbH in Berlin, and supports the establishment of the Cusanus Hochschule (engl. "Cusanus University") in Bernkastel-Kues, Germany.