School of Earth and Environment

Elke Pirgmaier Elke Pirgmaier

Postgraduate Researcher / Business School

Email address:
Room: 9.124

Affiliation: Sustainability Research Institute


MSc in Business from WU Vienna University of Economics and Business

Project details

Project title

Towards a heterodox theory of the environment. Building bridges between heterodox and ecological economics



University of Leeds 110 Anniversary Research Scholarship

Project outline

This PhD research aims to strengthen theoretical and methodological links between heterodox economics and ecological economics. It is based on the recognition that tackling the interrelated nature of social-ecological phenomena from a systemic perspective is rare, i.e. there is little theorising about the environment and the economy as a whole. More theorising is needed however, as it is both important for understanding and explaining the reality of contemporary economic systems and for thinking about how future sustainable societies might look like.

The starting point is an analysis why ecological economic theory is better suited to address global environmental change than environmental economics. However, it fails to offer a full alternative to the mainstream as it lacks a sound understanding of mature capitalist economies. Heterodox economic theories can help fill this gap and contribute to informing alternative theory. One heterodox school of thought will be studied in particular in the light of global environmental change: Marxist political economy. This analysis builds the foundations for addressing specific research gaps in ecological economics, based on a deeper understanding of capitalist structures and a systems-oriented perspective on institutional change.

My research addresses the following questions:

  • Why is theory development needed in ecological economics?
  • What building blocks for ecological-economic theory can be derived from heterodox economics, Marxist political economy in particular?
  • How can these elements be combined in a new theoretical synthesis: what is the research agenda moving forward?