New SPERI Paper: Contemporary Discourses on the Environment-Economy Nexus by Hayley Stevenson

Paper No. 19

We are very pleased to publish this new paper by Hayley Stevenson, Associate Fellow of SPERI and Senior Lecturer in Politics at the University of Sheffield.

For over two decades, the concept of sustainable development has been salient in political discourse. But its promise of reconciling economic development, social welfare, and environmental sustainability has proven rather elusive.

In recent years we’ve seen numerous competing concepts emerge in debates about sustainable economic development. While many advance ideas of a green economy and green growth, others talk about wellbeing, gross national happiness, inclusive wealth, harmony with nature, de-growth, steady-state economy, and buen vivir (living well). This rhetorical diversity shows that there is no single vision for reconciling environmental sustainability and economic development. But the varied terminology itself obscures actual points of agreement and disagreement.

This paper reports on a bilingual ‘Q study’ of international debates about sustainable economic development. It reveals that three discourses underpin these debates: Radical Transformationism; Cooperative Reformism; and Statist Progressivism). The paper dissects these discourses and contextualises their key points of contention in wider sustainability debates over the past two decades.

Download the paper: Contemporary Discourses on the Environment-Economy Nexus.

Watch the author present her paper in this short video: