Re-writing the ecological metaphor: Part 1
by Peter E. Wells
Progress in Industrial Ecology, An International Journal (PIE), Vol. 3, No. 1/2, 2006

Abstract: Biological, evolutionary or ecological metaphors underpin much of theorisation in the social sciences in general, and the themes of inter-firm competition and technological change in particular. The argument advanced in this paper is that the use of ecological metaphors has been partial and selective. In key areas of theorisation such as industrial ecology the selective use of ecological metaphors has generated theoretical and empirical bias. In turn, this means that both our understanding of sustainability and our ability to create policy for the attainment of sustainability are, at best, partial. A different selection of ecological metaphors can result in different implications for our understanding of sustainable business and the limitations of such metaphors to the attainment of sustainability. To illustrate this view, this paper explores the latent possibilities in ecological concepts such as diversity, local adaptation, and alien species invasion as they might be applied to business and economic analysis.

Online publication date: Fri, 09-Jun-2006

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