L'environnement de l'économie

Aucune économie ne constitue un univers clos, autonome, régi par des lois indépendantes du droit, de la morale ou de la politique. Les questions économiques les plus intéressantes se situent généralement à la frontière de disciplines voisines. Cela ne peut apparaître plus clairement que dans l'interaction entre les processus économiques et l'environnement.

La particularité de cet échange est de ne pas être régi par les lois de la mécanique mais par celles de la thermodynamique, notamment la loi d'entropie selon laquelle la quantité d'énergie libre susceptible d'être transformée en travail mécanique diminue avec le temps – un processus irréversible culminant par la "la mort de la chaleur". Sous l'impulsion de Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen - dont les travaux sur les relations entre les processus économiques et la physique furent pionniers - de nombreux chercheurs tentèrent sans grand succès de formuler une théorie "entropique" de l'économie et de la société, en particulier au cours des années 1970.

Le point de vue entropique suppose que du fait de ses multiples interactions avec la nature, les processus économiques produisent des conséquences irréversibles. Nous puisons dans des stocks de ressources naturelles non renouvelables (pétrole et ressources minérales par exemple) et dégradons ou modifions qualitativement les autres ressources (par exemple l'eau et les terres agricoles) en leur imposant un rythme d'exploitation supérieur à leur capacité de régénération. L'exploitation des stocks de ressources non renouvelables libère également la "vitesse" de la croissance économique du rythme écologique, ce qui contribue à la dégradation de la biosphère, notamment par des changements climatiques irréversibles.

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