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Kenneth Boulding: Religious Influences on his Economics

Paper Session

Saturday, Jan. 6, 2018 12:30 PM - 2:15 PM

Marriott Philadelphia Downtown, Meeting Room 404
Hosted By: Association for the Study of Generosity in Economics & Association of Christian Economists
  • Chair: David Phillips, University of Notre Dame

Kenneth Boulding: A Friends' Economist

Robert H. Scott III
Monmouth University


This paper examines the ways Kenneth Boulding’s (1910-1993) Quaker religious beliefs influenced his economics, and vice versa. He was an enigmatic economist whose career spanned over six decades. He helped to establish the field of general systems and furthered peace studies and conflict and defense. His popular economics textbook Economic Analysis (1941) established him as an influential Keynesian economist. This early work earned him the John Bates Clark medal in 1949. But behind Boulding’s theoretical economics was a deep religious ideology. Strongly affected by World War I while growing up in Liverpool, England, Boulding became a lifelong pacifist. Raised Methodist, Boulding discovered Quakerism in high school. While Boulding published widely in the field of economics, he also published almost 100 articles in Quaker journals. Boulding’s body of work in economics and Quakerism led to interesting crosspollination. His work on peace and conflict and defense were a direct result of his pacifism. Boulding’s work is Keynesian mixed with a concern for human betterment. But perhaps the most important influence of Boulding’s work that combined his Quakerism and economics is his assertion that economics is not a value-free discipline.

Economia Della Pace

Raul Caruso
Catholic University of the Sacred Heart


Peace economics has not been a mainstream field of economic research in recent decades. This presentation will touch on this and Boulding's work in this area. Topics include the theoretical pillars of peace economics which take into account the distinction between productive and unproductive activities. Economic development depends on the balance between them. In fact, conflict and peace are to affect differently such balance. Next, the economic correlates of different types of conflicts and political violence are presented. In particular, a substantial attention is devoted to the economic causes of civil wars and terrorism. Besides the empirical evidence, several conceptual points are proposed to explain the detrimental impact of military expenditures. The debate on peacefulness of international trade is expounded and also specific topics as sanctions and international arms trade are discussed. Further space is devoted to economics of peacekeeping and to the role of IMF.

Kenneth Boulding: The Friendly Economist

Tom Head
George Fox University


The paper presents reflections on the impact of Quaker thought and practice on the contributions of Kenneth Boulding to economics, as well as the impact of Quaker thought and practice on the contributions of Boulding to social science more generally.
Charles Anderton
College of the Holy Cross
Jeff Young
St. Lawrence University
Andrew Yuengert
Pepperdine University
JEL Classifications
  • B3 - History of Economic Thought: Individuals
  • Z1 - Cultural Economics; Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology