Science is built up of facts, as a house is with stones.
But a collection of facts is no more a science
than a heap of stones is a house.
- Henri Poincaré
My research is driven by the normative impulse to assist in the transformation towards a sustainable society. Our present ways of living and producing are neither in line with the limitations of a finite planet nor with the limitations of society. On a deeper level, they are totally at odds with our human nature, although I do not employ this term as a scientifit concept — empirically there is no fixed human nature or any kind of unchanged individual “essence” — but on a more emotional level. In the words of the first true sustainability economist, John Stuart Mill:
If the earth must lose that great portion of its pleasantness which it owes to things that the unlimited increase of wealth and population would extirpate from it, for the mere purpose of enabling it to support a larger, but not a better or happier population, I sincerely hope, for the sake of posterity, that they will be content to be stationary, long before necessity compels them to it.
This quote is leading to the sine qua non condition of any pathway to sustainability: the necessity of degrowth. Degrowth, although I am not totally in accordance with its present definition, implies a reduction in the physical and economic scope of human activities on this planet. We are already overshooting natural carrying capacities by more than 30 percent. What does degrowth then imply for the economy and our society? How can our lifestyles change, our ways of production change, our business models change, our forms of organizations and social networks change, and all under the condition of preserving and maintaing a free and democratic society? These are the great questions driving my research.
My theoretical worldview is influenced by the works of David Hume, Charles Darwin (the number one philosopher who wasn’t…), Ludwig Wittgenstein, Heinz von Foerster and Niklas Luhmann. Philosophically I am an anti-essentialist, epistemologically an operational constructivist, and my main ontological tool is social systems theory and second-order cybernetics.