Skip to main content

Boulding’s Place in Economic History

  • Chapter
Kenneth Boulding

Part of the book series: Great Thinkers in Economics Series ((GTE))

  • 132 Accesses


Kenneth Boulding was a renaissance intellectual with varied interests, as presented in this book. Borrowing Robert Heilbroner’s phrase, Boulding was a worldly philosopher, but also a moral philosopher. Boulding did not work within one school of economic thought. He was always a disciple of Keynes, but he also branched out into institutional economics, behavioral economics, ecological economics, Post Keynesian economics, and others. Boulding was critical of neoclassical economics early in his career. For example, he admonished neoclassical economists for adopting a positivist approach to economic analysis and ignoring the normative elements of economic issues. Today, ethics in economics is a hotly debated issue, and there is still significant resistance to recognizing that economic inquiries are not value-free. As early as the 1930s, Boulding (1932; 1934) dismissed neoclassical economics’ theories of utility maximization, profit maximization, and marginal productivity. Boulding saw himself as a modern political philosopher who was primarily concerned with the well-being of people (humanomics). Boulding’s methods went against the grain of mainstream/neoclassical economics, and arguably still do today. In part, because of Boulding’s nonconformity and concern for social issues, much of his work had originality and emotion. But stepping back and looking at Boulding’s entire research output reveals two areas where he was especially prescient and original: First, his work on peace and conflict resolution; and second, his metaphorical Spaceship Earth as an argument for sustainability and controlling rampant consumption and economic growth.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this chapter

Subscribe and save

Springer+ Basic
EUR 32.99 /Month
  • Get 10 units per month
  • Download Article/Chapter or Ebook
  • 1 Unit = 1 Article or 1 Chapter
  • Cancel anytime
Subscribe now

Buy Now

USD 29.95
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
USD 84.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as EPUB and PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
Softcover Book
USD 109.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Compact, lightweight edition
  • Dispatched in 3 to 5 business days
  • Free shipping worldwide - see info
Hardcover Book
USD 109.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Durable hardcover edition
  • Dispatched in 3 to 5 business days
  • Free shipping worldwide - see info

Tax calculation will be finalised at checkout

Purchases are for personal use only

Institutional subscriptions

Similar content being viewed by others

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Copyright information

© 2015 Robert Scott

About this chapter

Cite this chapter

Scott, R. (2015). Boulding’s Place in Economic History. In: Kenneth Boulding. Great Thinkers in Economics Series. Palgrave Macmillan, London.

Download citation

Publish with us

Policies and ethics