On Thursday 23 November 2017, the Department of International Development hosted Kate Raworth to talk about her best selling book Doughnut Economics. Kate captivated the audience by using story telling, dramatic images and humour in a bid to challenge what we know about economics. Professor in Economics, Oriana Bandiera, discussed the book whilst Professor in Practice, Duncan Green, chaired the event. 

MSc Social Policy and Development candidate, Jireh Natalia Rodriguez Malagon, reflects on the event. 

Kate Raworth, author of the best selling Doughnut Economics speaking in the Sheikh Zayed Theatre on Thursday 23 November 2017 to a public audience

The LSE had the pleasure to host Kate Raworth, who shared with our diverse community her best-selling book “Doughnut Economics: seven ways to think like a 21st century economist”.  Drawing a big audience, Kate exposed her concerns in reference to the classic teaching of economics that enhances individualism and a profit driven philosophy of life that has resulted in a rather chaotic world.

After acquiring further education in Economics and hoping to be able to help change the world, Kate faced major frustrations over the existing theories, which seemed “to push the key issues out of the margins”.  After “walking away” from economics for 4 years and working with international organizations, she soon felt the need to pull these two worlds together. The words of Buckminster Fuller seemed rather pertinent at the time: “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something – build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”  Travelling back in time and acknowledging Copernicus’s own struggle to challenge the status quo, Kate felt the need for a copernicium revolution and this was the beginning of the doughnut economic model. This model seeks the successful inclusion of the many intervening factors that participate in the economic process. Moreover, it portrays a balanced view of the impact we have on the planet.

You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something – build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

Kate highlighted the precarious condition we have reached as we have already overshot the planetary boundaries. In an effort to bring individuals from all sort of backgrounds together, she encouraged the audience to be the generation to change history around building a new economic mindset.  Economics textbooks seems to be frozen in time and no substantial adjustment has been made since the 1850s. In her own words: “students deserve a mindset that fits the challenges ahead”. Likewise, the Economics syllabus should equip them to take on the challenge.

In a historical retrospective, Kate illustrated how issues around Economics have revolved around questions on what it is, how it works and who we are. From Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill, Newton, Stanley Jevons, what we have left in ECON101 these days is, as Kate puts it: “the rational economic man standing alone, money in his hand and ego in his heart“. That is the model that we are taught and the one we turn into, one that does not give value to altruism and collaboration. This situation has gone even further with the reign of neoliberalism and the market fundamentalism that has come with it. Behind the scenes a different story is taking place. One about massive corporate funding to political parties, tax havens, hidden receipts, huge discrepancies between the average worker and the CEO and lies about our impact on the planet.

The neo-liberal story according to Doughnut Economics

The talk was an invitation to contribute towards a new economic story, understanding the economic activity as one that “meets the means of all within the means of the planet”. Kate advocates for a distributive and regenerative design that would alleviate concerns about the economic approach to key global issues. In her own words, we should all “take Economics out of the equation and make ourselves saved”.

Kate’s talk was indeed a thought-provoking event that voiced concerns that have been widely discussed within the development community. We also had an intervention by Dr. Oriana Bandiera who debated some contested aspects of Kate’s argument, including the fact that efforts have already been made in order to give Economics a new perspective.

At the LSE we thrive to bring the most intellectually-stimulating debates closer to our academic community. This was indeed a relevant discussion that relates to practitioners, academics and combined efforts to promote edge-cutting ideas to the practice of development. This is indeed a key issue when hoping to respond to the latent challenges of our time.

You can listen to and watch the Doughnut Economics event again via the LSE events website

Jireh Natalia Rodriguez Malagon, an MSc Social Policy and Development candidate at the LSE. A University of Essex Alumna most recently involved in the Colombian Government in the Local Ombudsman office in Bogota. She has also worked with victims of the conflict and assisted research in a broad set of issues related to Human Rights and Development in Colombia.

The views expressed in this post are those of the author and in no way reflect those of the International Development LSE blog or the London School of Economics and Political Science.