Maja Göpel: A Social-Green Deal as the Answer

Maja Göpel puts an end to three formerly dominant narratives that determined the economy. For her, the way out of the crisis must be a social-ecological one, which must be tangible for the people.




1. APRIL 2020



Decision-makers have found answers to the economic challenges of the current crisis that would have been unthinkable just a few weeks and months ago. This is also the view of Maja Göpel (WBGU) in her article at Social Europe and she dispels former narratives that were still considered opinion-leading during the financial crisis.

Even though the environmental economist praises the emergency aid measures such as the short-time work allowance, the additional financial support for parents, or the assumption of running costs by companies, she sees crucial distribution issues on the horizon. The measures that must lead us out of the crisis must meet economic, social and ecological standards. In this, Maja Göpel closely aligns herself with the orientation of the UN’s 20 SDGs.

The Changing Narratives

Göpel identifies three major narratives that have changed and that must now be considered in the conceptualization of responses to the crisis. The first narrative, which belongs to a bygone era, is that of an economy based on fossil fuels and pursuing an economic model that operates at the expense of the environment. Göpel calls for new indicators of wealth to replace GDP and for cost accounting that focuses more on environmental and health externalities. The EU, she envisions, should be the benchmark for high prosperity with a low environmental footprint.

The second narrative that belongs to the past, she believes, is that of trickle-down economics. At a time when land and real estate ownership is leading to ever greater wealth inequality, she calls for a skimming of wealth in the form of a wealth tax. A change in the tax system to put SMEs in a better position than transnational companies would therefore lead to more justice, as would a redefinition of the concept of productivity. Especially in view of the obvious importance of jobs in care and health, there has to be a rethinking here. The current concept of productivity is not sustainable in these areas, nor in an agriculture driven by cost pressure, if the goal is a resilient sustainable economy.

Last but not least, Maja Göpel argues that the assumption that positive developments in the fianz sector would also benefit the real economy is a thing of the past. She calls for an end to “short-selling” and a reorientation toward more long-term KPIs. With reference to Marianna Mazzucato, she also calls for a different distribution of compensation for government-sponsored innovations.

The Social Green Deal

As a way out of the crisis, Göpel calls for a Social Green Deal that brings these insights together. She calls for a transformative plan that puts people and their environment back at the center. To this end, investments should be made primarily in education and the economic focus should be on medium-sized enterprises. The EU as a community of destiny, as it is often called during the Corona crisis, could thus redirect the solidarity needed for the health crisis into a transformative goal.

The full article in English is available on Social Europe.



The Corona pandemic poses new kinds of challenges for global economic and social policy making and has further intensified an already existing need for action. Economists are working hard on mitigating the economic effects.