In Memoriam – Felix Rauschmayer, 1967 – 2018

Associate Editor of JHDC 2011-2017

Felix Rauschmayer, Associate Editor of the Journal of Human Development and Capabilities, passed away on May 13th 2018 after a long illness. Felix had a keen mind and a passionate interest in making sustainable development work. He joined the Human Development and Capability Association in 2010 and established links between ecological economics and the capability approach.

I first met him in our undergraduate years at Augsburg University. He had skipped the first semester but thanks to his keen intellect he finished the undergraduate studies quickly. Led by his interest in developing countries and specifically Latin America, he continued his studies in Tübingen. However, aiming for more depth in economics he switched to Heidelberg to receive his diploma on the limits of economic valuation of nature. By then he had started to focus on ecological economics and began his doctoral thesis on multi-criteria analysis as a framework to facilitate group decisions in complex situations. He worked on his doctorate in Göttingen and completed it in 1999. Afterwards Felix moved to Leipzig where he first worked as a research assistant in philosophy and then switched to the institution that became his employer until the end, the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research. At first he was in the Department of Economics and then in the newly built Department of Environmental Policy. The latter suited Felix’ research interests better since he had become more and more interested in governance and facilitating the transformation to sustainable development. To this end, the additional work he took up as a trainer for Nonviolent Communication in 2001 served as a useful complement.

Felix was rather demanding and radical at times in his zeal for improving the world. For example he made it a principle to use a bike and tried to avoid traveling by plane. Fortunately he did not stick to all such self-imposed rules: during his studies he told me that he thought it irresponsible to have children today because of the environmental deterioration they would face and the overcrowding of the world. A few years later he had become the father of three children and subsequently had two more. They gave him much joy and taught him to relax his principles. He developed ideas about the capability approach as an approach to justice inspired by the basic needs approach in development economics.  As we had followed each other’s professional development from a distance, he knew about my expertise and approached me about a project proposal on sustainable development and theories of justice in 2009. We were both skeptical at first that we could make the project work, and then glad about our fruitful cooperation that resulted in, among other things, the well-known publication of a special issue of the JHDC on the capability approach and sustainability.

The project laid ground to the debate linking the capability approach and ecological economics with regards to sustainable development. It raised questions about the meaning of agency and the role of collectives for individual capabilities. It also brought the two communities of ecological economists and capability scholars together. Felix believed firmly in transparency and collaboration as a means to expand the knowledge needed to achieve the transformation towards sustainable development. His skills in facilitating discussions, his analytic abilities and his openness towards persons and ideas will be greatly missed! The themes he set are still urgent and his memory can guide us in following up the research he started.

I am sure many in HDCA share my gratefulness for having known and collaborated with him!

Ortrud Leßmann

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