Scarcity is always real. Regardless of the factors that trigger or cause scarcity, it is perceived, experienced and problematized as a condition or phenomenon, and thus, as an experience; it is always real.
In economic theory scarcity too often rests as an abstraction, an absolute condition away from which we operate. Thus the economist Lionel Robbins’s famous definition: “Economics is concerned with that aspect of behaviour that arises from the scarcity of means to achieve given ends. It follows that economics is entirely neutral.” The way that neo-classical economics is presented as a neutral science bound to scarcity tends to present both the science and the scarcity as a natural state of affairs in which the social consequences are suppressed. But in this very abstraction and ‘neutralisation’, scarcity is emasculated in terms of its very real effects. It is therefore important not only to understand scarcity’s various constructions, but also to be profoundly aware of its consequences.
Photo by Emmanuel Dyan, published by Shelters for All, Copyright © 2013 University of Notre Dame OSD-CI Group