Cross-Disciplinary Scientific Foundation for Sustainability: Qualitative Economics

Alf Michael Fast, Woodrow W Clark II

Research output: Contribution to book/anthology/report/conference proceedingBook chapterResearchpeer-review


When we talk about sustainability, it is not only a matter of acting in another way. It is a matter of thinking, thinking of knowledge—it is creating another logic of economics, another discourse. The science of economic needs to be grounded in understanding what is beneath the surface of economics and business activities and how this could be connected to sustainability. Economics should be, as a science, concerned with formulating theories of ideas and reality that describe how to understand phenomenon and create experiences, generate hypotheses, and provide data that need to be proven or disproven through testing and further analyses.
Economics needs to be a science, but to become one, economics must be able to handle the essence of economics, namely, human actions and group interactions. Academics and scholars need a scientific perspective that can document, hypothesize, understand, and analyze human dynamics, and that is where qualitative economics can create an alternative perspective on economics.
The economic actions by people, groups, communities, businesses and their networks, and organizations are about people interacting in everyday of life, trying to construct the future and making sense of the present. The science of economics is about the monetary, financial, and numerical interactions that transpire between people and their organizations. Economics at the macrolevel is interaction between people and groups, countries, and regions. Yet, economics at the microlevel is another form of interaction. Microeconomics can be seen in business and interpersonal transactions. Economics takes place among people, both macro- and microeconomics.
While we acknowledge and recognize the value of quantitative approaches in such macro- and microinteractions, there is a significant missing element: qualitative interactions of people that not only makes the dynamics but also contradictions, power, discourses, and so on. This can in all be turned into hypotheses, tested, and analyzed, which then makes the entire field of economics scientific. From a philosophical perspective interactions between and among groups at any level is the basis for economics and thereby for sustainability.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSustainable Cities and Communities Design Handbook : Green Engineering, Architecture, and Technology
EditorsWoodrow Clark
Number of pages31
Publication date2018
EditionSecond Edition
ISBN (Print)978-0-12-813964-6
ISBN (Electronic)9780128139653
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Cite this

Fast, A. M., & Clark II, W. W. (2018). Cross-Disciplinary Scientific Foundation for Sustainability: Qualitative Economics. In W. Clark (Ed.), Sustainable Cities and Communities Design Handbook : Green Engineering, Architecture, and Technology (Second Edition ed., pp. 33-63). Elsevier.