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Abstract: This paper outlines a synthesis of ecological economics with econophysics and other complexity approaches to economics. Arguably, the resulting “ecological econophysics” will be scientifically sounder than mainstream economics and much better suited to addressing a major challenge of our times: the development of democratically-based policies to reduce economic throughput to an environmentally sustainable level without triggering economic crises and without excluding part of the world’s population, i.e., to implement degrowth. Degrowth will need major structural changes, which leads us to question whether there are limits to the malleability of the economic system’s architecture. A fundamental limit will be encountered if, as suggested by the physics of complexity, long-lasting complex systems always occur midway between an ordered and a disordered state. There is much evidence that this hypothesis holds and that the current economic system satisfies this condition. However, this does not mean that the problems posed by this system should be unavoidable. Ecological econophysics gives clues to identifying alternative economic systems that would also function between order and chaos, but which would have radically different implications for environmental sustainability and social justice.

Sustainability 2014, 6, 3431-3483