Development and Underdevelopment in the History of Economic Thought

Intellectual roots of Ecological Economics: on the influence of (Post) Keynesian thought

Mangold Yannick, University of Hamburg - Chair for Economic History and History of Economic Thought (Prof. Allgoewer)

Ecological Economics considers socio-economic activity to be embedded and therefore dependent on a functioning and healthy ecosystem. Proponents emphasise natural limits to economic growth. They criticize the concept of unrestricted factor substitution and a purely market exchange-based value theory. Furthermore, issues of uncertainty loom large e.g., when capturing future developments of the interaction between economic activity and the natural world. These latter concerns ecological economics shares with Post Keynesian economics. However, the Post Keynesian focus on effective demand, macroeconomic activity and unemployment implies a positive stance on economic growth which commentators like Herman Daly, the co-founder of the International Society of Ecological Economics and the journal Ecological Economics heavily criticise (Daly, 2007, p.26). Interestingly, Daly (2005, p.102) names Kenneth Boulding, Ernst Schumacher and Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen as the intellectual pioneers of Ecological Economics. The academic paths of all three intersected with those of early (Post) Keynesians at a time where the Keynesian revolution was developing its full momentum. Their works reflect this common intellectual tradition methodologically and theoretically with respect to issues such as uncertainty or foreign trade policy. Schumacher said to have been greatly influenced by the General Theory and famously caught Keynes´s attention with his article on Multilateral Clearing (Barbara, 1984; Schumacher, 1943). An idea to which Daly himself would refer to in 2002 as a measure to restrict capital mobility and put a control on absolute advantage in foreign trade. Schumacher also worked on an article about socialist post war reconstruction of the UK with Robinson and Kaldor (Kaldor et al. 1943). Kaldor, who would later focus on foreign trade as the key mechanism for one of his growth theories, also met Georgescu-Roegen - both were members of Schumpeter’s circle at Harvard...


Keywords: Ecological Economics, Post Keynesian, Keynesian, Schumacher, Boulding, Georgescu-Roegen, Kaldor, Robinson, Schumpeter, Cambridge, Harvard, Uncertainty, Foreign Trade, Path Dependency, Historical Time, Disequlibrium

Paper file