Elke Pirgmaier

Research student, University of Leeds

Elke Pirgmaier

Elke is a postgraduate researcher in the Sustainability Research Institute at the University of Leeds.

Elke’s 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 of 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.

Elke’s 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, and Marxist political economy in particular?
  • How can these elements be combined in a new theoretical synthesis: what is the research agenda moving forward?

Elke has an MSc in Business from WU Vienna University of Economics and Business.