Boulding, Kenneth Ewart (1910 – 1993) English Economist, Social Scientist, Writer, and Peace Activist
Kenneth Ewart Boulding (1910 – 1993)
English economist, social scientist, writer, and peace activist
Kenneth Boulding is a highly respected economist, educator, author, and pacifist. In an essay in Frontiers in Social Thought: Essays in Honor of Kenneth E. Boulding (1976), Cynthia Earl Kerman described Boulding as "a person who grew up in the poverty-stricken 'inner city' of Liverpool, broke through the class system to achieve an excellent education, had both scientific and literary leanings, became a well-known American economist, then snapped the bonds of economics to extend his thinking into wide-ranging fields—a person who is a religious mystic and a poet as well as a social scientist."
A major recurring theme in Boulding's work is the need—and the quest—for an integrated social science, even a unified science. He does not see the disciplines of human knowledge as distinct entities, but rather a unified whole characterized by "a diversity of methodologies of learning and testing." For example, Boulding is a firm advocate of adopting an ecological approach to economics, asserting that ecology and economics are not independent fields of study. He has identified five basic similarities between the two disciplines: 1) both are concerned not only with individuals, but individuals as members of species ; 2) both have an important concept of dynamic equilibrium; 3) a system of exchange among various individuals and species is essential in both ecological and economic systems; 4) both involve some sort of development—succession in ecology and population growth and capital accumulation in economics; 5) both involve distortion of the equilibrium of systems by humans in their own favor.
"If my life philosophy can be summed up in a sentence," Boulding stated, "it is that I believe that there is such a thing as human betterment—a magnificent, multidimensional, complex structure—a cathedral of the mind—and I think human decisions should be judged by the extent to which they promote it. This involves seeing the world as a total system." Boulding's views have been influential in many fields, and he has helped environmentalists reassess and redefine their role in the larger context of science and economics.
[Gerald L. Young Ph.D. ]
Boulding, K. E. "Economics As an Ecological Science." In Economics As a Science. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1970.
——. Collected Papers. Boulder: Colorado Associated University Press, 1971.
Pfaff, M., ed. Frontiers in Social Thought: Essays in Honor of K. E. Boulding. Amsterdam and New York: North-Holland, 1976.
Silk, L. "K. E. Boulding: The Economics of Peace and Love." In The Economists. New York: Basic Books, 1976.
Wright, R. "Kenneth Boulding." In Three Scientists and Their Gods: Looking for Meaning in an Age of Information. New York: Times Books, 1988.