January, 2022

Julian Simon, the problem of socio-ecological resilience and the “ultimate resource”

A reinterpretation
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The article argues that the debate between “the limits to growth” movement and Julian Simon could be reconstructed and reinterpreted in the light of three pairs of models that map three distinct levels of discussion: (i) a “model of man” and (ii) a model of institutional structure and design, both encompassed by (iii) a model of --what the contemporary literature calls-- the Social-Ecological System (SES). Ultimately the “the limits to growth” problem is not so much about resources and demographics, as it is about SES and their resilience. Moreover, at a first glance, the debate between the proponents of the “the limits to growth” movement and Julian Simon seems to be about empirical data and predictive models. However, on a closer look, behind the positive analysis there is a much deeper structure, of a normative bent, which has a decisive influence on the perspective and approach one adopts regarding the proposed themes.