Toward a Sustaining Production Theory

Citation:

O’Hara, Sabine U. 1997. “Toward a Sustaining Production Theory.” Ecological Economics 20 (2): 141–54.

Author: Sabine O’Hara

Abstract:

Production is commonly described as the root of wealth creation, growth and progress. Mainline production theory ascribes this wealth generating ability to a limited number of inputs transformed into equally narrowly defined goods and services. Output which is not part of the official economy's market exchange, or inputs not employed in their production process remain external and unaccounted for. Many of these unaccounted for goods and inputs are provided in households, gardens, subsistence production, or ecological and biophysical systems through the ‘free’ services of women or nature. Thus an alternative view of production is suggested, one which views production itself as linked to the social and bio-physical contexts within which it takes place. This context first makes the generation of input streams, the receiving of output streams and the processing of inputs by means of fund factors (Georgescu-Roegen) possible. As production is contextualized it becomes evident that processes which sustain input generation, waste absorption and material transformation are critical to the production process. These are referred to as sustaining services. A sustaining production process is one which maintains sustaining services instead of destroying them. It is further argued that steps toward the implementation of a sustaining production concept require a move from abstraction to material concreteness. Three areas of concreteness are discussed as moving from solely monetary to physical valuation criteria, moving from methodological homogeneity to diversity, and moving from a mystified and distanced decision making process about quantity and quality of production to one of informed, participatory discourse.

Keywords: production theory, sustainability, ecosystem services, social sustainability, flow/ fund factors, feminist theory

Topics: Economies, Ecological Economics, Informal Economies, Environment, Gender, Women, Gender Roles

Year: 1997

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