Consumer Behaviour and Sustainable Change
FiFo / März 1999 / Diskussionsbeitrag, FiFo
Sustainable development requires a fundamental change of consumption patterns in the long run which cannot be appropriately analysed within the traditional neoclassical paradigm. This essay discusses the implications of alternative theoretical approaches, such as household prodduction theory, the neoinstitutional concept of bounded rationality and the evolutionary concept of path-dependency. Compared to neoclassical economics, these approaches paint a different picture of the determinants of consumer behaviour with far-reaching theoretical and political implications. Firstly, a sustainable change of consumption patterns does not appear to be a problem of individual welfare losses, but rather of overcoming a social and institutional lock-in. Consequently, we need new efficiency criteria appropriate to assess dynamic social processes. Secondly, behavioural change is not only influenced by relative prices. The design of institutional arrangements should therefore consider other factors such as information barriers, social norms of behaviour and cumulative processes of imitation.
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