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Paul ErbFollow



Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Program


Degree Type

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded



Halfway into its third decade, the debate surrounding the environmental Kuznets curve (EKC) hypothesis has stalled with political economists and socio-ecologists ascendant and modernization theorists scrambling to give their apparently moribund perspective new life. But beyond the rise and fall of the EKC, there remains a second-order question and decades of data: how do the theoretical perspectives of these contenders shape what their protagonists do and don't see? How have they mistaken episodes of "talking past each other" for genuine dialogue? Which perspective has had the biggest impact on the other’s way of thinking? A qualitative and quantitative analysis compares the top-ranking journals in economics with interdisciplinary journals of environmental economics revealing a categorical divergence in the types of critical thought deployed in the EKC debate over an almost 15 year period. The few articles appearing in the top ranking economic journals systematically fail to grasp the fundamentals of ecology which is evident in both their measurements and conclusions. I offer an abridged discussion of the critiques socio-ecology presents contemporary economics as what, in Kuhnian terminology, may well be described as a discipline in the crisis moment of a paradigm shift in no particular direction. I then conclude by siding with Habermas and Adorno against Popper's ideologically impoverished “falsifactionism”: progress in science depends as much on a theory of ideological critique as it does on the acquisition of technical knowledge. My intent has been to argue that ideological critique is empirically possible as the history of thought.

First Advisor

Dan Clawson

Second Advisor

Anthony Paik

Third Advisor

Z. Fareen Parvez