It should be possible, however, to distinguish that part of the GNP which is derived from exhaustible and that which is derived from reproducible resources, as well as that part of consumption which represents effluvia and that which represents input into the productive system again. Nobody, as far as I know, has ever attempted to break down the GNP in this way.

from The Economics of the Coming Spaceship Earth (1972)

Portrait of Kenneth Boulding

Kenneth Boulding

Economist, Peace Activist, and Philosopher
January 18, 1910 – March 18, 1993

Kenneth Ewart Boulding was an English-born American economist, educator, peace activist, and interdisciplinary philosopher. Boulding was the author of two citation classics: The Image: Knowledge in Life and Society and Conflict and Defense: A General Theory. He was co-founder of general systems theory and founder of numerous ongoing intellectual projects in economics and social science.


4 Documents






Word Count


Cover image for Ecodynamics: A New Theory of Societal Evolution


A New Theory of Societal Evolution

Embark on a captivating journey into Ecodynamics, a realm where the choreography of humanity and nature unfolds. This narrative intricately weaves economics, ecology, and human behavior, illuminated by Boulding’s visionary concept of "ecodynamics." This framework reveals the harmonious yet fragile bond between ecosystems and economies, a bond often ignored at our peril. Boulding’s interdisciplinary exploration spans from population dynamics to resource usage and technology’s role, dismantling the myth of infinite growth in a finite world. "Ecodynamics" challenges norms, offering profound insights that beckon us to adopt sustainable practices. This clarion call echoes—safeguard both civilization and the environment for lasting well-being.

The Economics of the Coming Spaceship Earth

The cowboy and the spaceman confront each other in this much-quoted essay by Kenneth E. Boulding, philosopher of the social sciences and intellectual prodder extraordinaire. Do we live on a limitless plain with endless resources, or in an enclosed space capsule in which we recycle—or die?

Cover image for The Image: Knowledge in Life and Society

The Image

Knowledge in Life and Society

A thought-provoking exploration of the role of images in shaping human understanding, both individually and collectively. Boulding examines how images, ranging from mental constructs to cultural symbols, influence our perception of reality, guide decision-making, and contribute to the dynamics of society. He delves into the interdisciplinary nature of knowledge, drawing on psychology, sociology, philosophy, and economics, to illustrate how these images shape our behavior, values, and relationships. Boulding’s work challenges readers to critically evaluate the power of images in constructing our cognitive landscapes and emphasizes the necessity of a holistic perspective to comprehend the complexities of knowledge within the context of life and society.

Cover image for The World as a Total System

The World as a Total System

A sequel to Boulding’s Ecodynamics, this book looks at the extent to which the Earth is a total system of interacting parts and the degree to which it is a pattern of isolated systems which have little or no impact on one another. Descriptions of systems are based as much as possible on their relevance to the real world. Boulding’s methodology depends on the nature of the particular system being investigated and he does not attempt to to impose methodologies from systems where parameters do not change (celestial mechanics) on those where they do (biological and social sciences).

Mentioned in 1 document

Marshall McLuhan

Understanding Media

When first published, Marshall McLuhan’s Understanding Media made history with its radical view of the effects of electronic communications upon man and life in the twentieth century. In Terrence Gordon’s own words, “McLuhan is in full flight already in the introduction, challenging us to plunge with him into what he calls ‘the creative process of knowing.’” Much to the chagrin of his contemporary critics McLuhan’s preference was for a prose style that explored rather than explained. Probes, or aphorisms, were an indispensable tool with which he sought to prompt and prod the reader into an “understanding of how media operate” and to provoke reflection.