Culture, economic structure, and the dynamics of ecological economic systems

John M. Anderies
In this thesis several models are developed and analyzed in an attempt to better understand the interaction of culture, economic structure, and the dynamics of human ecological economic systems. Specifically, how does the ability of humans to change their individual behavior quickly and easily in response to changing environmental conditions (behavioral plasticity) alter the dynamics of human ecological economic systems? What role can cultural and social institutions play in affecting
more » ... affecting individual behavior and thus the dynamics of such systems? Finally, how do assumptions about the production and consumption of goods and services within human ecological economic systems affect their dynamics. Much work concerning interacting economic and natural processes has focused on technical issues and problems with standard economic thought. Less attention has been paid to the role of human behavior. The work presented herein addresses both but emphasizes the latter. Three models are developed: a model of the Tsembaga of New Guinea which focuses on the roles of behavior, cultural practices and ritual on the dynamics of the Tsembaga ecosystem; a model of Easter Island where the linkage between economic models of utility and the resulting behavioral model is studied; and finally a model of a modern two sector economy with capital accumulation where the emphasis is evenly split between behavior and economic issues. The main results of the thesis are: behavioral plasticity exhibited by humans can destabilize ecological economic systems and culture and social organization can play a critical role in offsetting this destabilizing force. Finally, the analysis of the two sector model indicates that there is a window of feasible investment levels that will lead to a sustainable economy. The size of this window depends on culture and social organization, namely the way economic growth is managed and how the associated benefits are distributed. The two sector model clarifies the idea of a sustainable economy, and [...]
doi:10.14288/1.0079974 fatcat:jqguumcfavb3pgxp54wq7enzfe