Development and Underdevelopment in the History of Economic Thought

History of Balkan economic thought. A focus on thermodynamics and energy in economics.

Nona NENOVSKA, Ladyss, Université de Paris

The aim of the present paper is to contribute to the discussion on the emergence and development of the environmental economic thought in the last century. Which could be called the early history of modern ecological economics. More specifically it will focus on the concept of interdependence between sciences, such as biology, physics and economy. The concept of thermodynamics and energy in the social sciences will be explained through the works of two authors from the Balkans, one Bulgarian - Slavtcho Zagoroff (1898-1970) and other Romanian - Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen (1906-1994). The study will be on the one hand historical because it will explain the country context (Bulgaria and Romania) in which their respective research emerged. And on the other, conceptual, as it will try to explain the originality of their ideas at a time when mainstream neoclassical theories were at their apogee for explaining social interactions. This article will help to rediscover a relatively unknown to the public author, Slavcho Zagoroff and to revive his ideas. Zagoroff was a Bulgarian economist and statistician whose main works date from 1954 and are mainly focused on the concept of energy stream in economics and human metabolism explained through the lens of thermodynamics. By criticising the mainstream economic approach on national income in terms of “value” he developed a novel approach of “motion of national income”. According to Zagoroff, the national income is a “motion of energy “ which he computes in terms of primary energy sources. He was drawing conclusions from direct observations on the economic development of Danubian countries. In contrast, the famous Romanian economist Georgescu-Roegen’s main ideas from 1971 are more centred on the physical limits of economic growth. By analysing thermodynamics and economics, he developed the insights that the entropic nature of economic processes is connected with our biological evolution. 

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Keywords: Georgescu-Roegen, Zagoroff, entropy, energy in economics, Balkan economic thought