Three independent literatures have contributed to the understanding of irreversibility in economics. The first focuses on the future opportunities forgone by investments with irreversible consequences. The second considers irreversibility (and hysteresis) in the context of the dynamics of systems characterized by multiple equilibria. The third, with roots in complex systems theory, focuses on entrainment—a phenomenon recognized in economics as lock-in or lock-out. This paper disentangles the different strands in the economic analysis of irreversibility in order to identify the core ideas involved and to connect them to arguments in the parallel literatures on sustainability and uncertainty.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


Data & Media loading...

  • Article Type: Review Article
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was a Success
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error