The Moral Problems of Economism in an Age of Eco-Crisis

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To make a convincing argument, people are nowadays expected to speak the language of economics. Neoliberalism has become notorious for making an economic worldview dominate politics, yet it offers only a partial and ideologically inclined explanation for the zeitgeist of today. This paper expands upon the term, or ideology, of economism as a critical means for understanding educational politics and the contemporary formation of moral subjectivity. Economism helps clarify the ideological features of mainstream economics that can influence education. Rather than describe the influence of markets and competition as an ‘invisible hand’, this paper envisages it less favourably as an ‘invisible foot’. Philosophers such as Samuel Bowles, Michael Sandel and Robin Hahnel claim that seeing the world through a purely economic lens crowds out certain important features of the human character such as moral obligation. Based on my earlier research I show how competitive ways of thinking are hampering the learning of ecological virtues, such as empathy. The ideology of economism is thus examined as a concept from a primarily moral or virtue-ethical perspective. Rather than examining moral rules or moral obligations as such, virtue-ethics asks what character traits we should adopt to live a morally fulfilling or ecologically viable life. This philosophical paper therefore has two main research questions: (1) What is economism? (2) How does economism affect our moral character? The main conclusion is that economism and competition have a detrimental impact that hardens our moral subjectivity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)224-247
JournalJournal for Critical Educational Policy Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 5 Feb 2022
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • economism
  • moral education
  • virtues
  • environmental education

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 1


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