Document Type : Original Research Paper


Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Department of Ethics and Education, Institute for Humanities and Cultural Studies, Tehran, Iran


The crisis of environment degradation is one of factors that have raised the problem of how to make development sustainable while considering limitations. Trying to solve this problem itself, however, raises another problem: out of the two fields of economics and ecology which one should determine the policy-making for sustainable development. At last, thinking about this led me to the question whether sustainability constrains development, and if yes how. The aim of the research reflected in this paper was to find the answers to these problems and questions in the course of explaining the context of their emergence. The method was to analyze, explain, and infer implications of the theories and comparing them: firstly, the concepts or criteria of sustainability in some important expert fields of knowledge were analyzed and explained so that the status of the ecological concept of sustainability in the mainstream sustainable development becomes clear; secondly, I turned to drawing the implications of important theories in ecology –climax theory, ecosystem theory, permissive ecology theory– for sustainability criterion, and comparing them; finally the recent economic theories of sustainability were analyzed and explained and their consequences for sustainability were inferred. Through all these stages I sought to answer the question whether sustainability constrains development, if yes how, and different criteria were compared in this regard. This study made it clear that (1) in the context of sustainable development, two fields of knowledge have been the most decisive fields in determining the criterion of sustainability: ecology and economics; (2) the sustainability that resulted from ecosystem theory constrains development; (3) but permissive ecology theory cannot regard nature as a norm or criterion for development; (4) permissive ecology’s diluted concept of sustainability leaves development primarily unconstrained; (5) in sustainable development sustainability now has become mainly an economic concept; (6) while strong sustainability has considerable capacity for constraining development, weak sustainability is lacking in this regard.