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Ecological economics recognizes economic activity as a biophysical process mediated by social systems and ultimately subject to the constraints of a finite earth system. The Anthropocene discourse appears as validation of the central concerns of ecological economics yet throws into relief its limits as a normative transdiscipline oriented toward social transformation. We review ecological economics in light of two overarching challenges: first, negotiating between biophysical reality and plural constructed social realities, so as to create legitimate grounds for a sustainability transition; second, accounting for multi-level, multi-scale social and political action, which demands a means for arbitrating among competing normative propositions. We argue that attempts to address these challenges within ecological economics have been inconsistent and relatively scarce, reflecting an unresolved tension regarding modern and postmodern social theory. We demonstrate that a critically modern ecological economics could draw on aligned social movements and build on deliberative theory as a foundation for social and political change fit for navigating the Anthropocene.

The Anthropocene Review, November 2019,