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November 04, 1970 - Image 5

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4 Wednesday, November 4, 1970


Page Five

Wednesday, November 4, 1970 THE MICHIGAN DAILY Page Five


oul ding:







Kenneth E. Boulding, BE-
ETHICS, University of Mich-
igan Press, $2.95 paper.
The edifice of a man's thought,
like a cathedral or a castle, is
built over a space of years, ar d
as long as the mind which builds
it is alive and growing, ore can
never tell where another wall or
turret may be added. Given a
W decent interval, however, the
building does take on a rec-
ognizable form, and one expects
any additions will be made in a
similar architectural style.
The architecture of Kenneth
Boulding's system of thought is
remarkably displayed in a re-
'Wcent Ann Arbor paperback call-
ed Beyond Economics. If a book
or an article coming out of a
single period and segment of a
man's thinking can be viewed
as a snapshot of a wall or a wing
of his thought-castle, then Be-
yond Economics is a movie of
four wings of such a castle in
the process of building. It is of
particular interest to the Uni-
ersity of Michigan community
since it is made up of a series
of articles bounded in time by
the 19-year period in which
Kenneth Boulding served as Pro-
fessor of Economics at the 'Uni-
versiytof Michigan, and thus it
represents the development of
Boulding's thinking during his
Michigan years.
The four wings are, of course'
the four sections into which the
book is divided, the four direc-
tions of thrust of his thought,
each shown in a series through
time. These are Economics,
General Systems and Society,
Religion and Ethnics, and Poli-
tics.. That there are four wings
reaching out in these various
directions is testimony to the
increasing breadth of this man's
thought, or, in his words, his
"transition from being a fairly
pure economist to being a rather
impure social philosopher." The
same years saw his publication
of seven books exhibiting the
M same s p r e a d i n g wings of
thought. Knowledge processes,
value judgments, political ques-
tions, and the interplay of skills
among disciplines, working out
from economics, were added iin
this fruitful period. Brief glimp-
ses of all these different thrusts
%or castle-wings are gathered in

the papers of this collection.
Yet the building blocks of all
four, as architectural aesthetics
would demand, are very similar,
and the impress of the same
pattern /upon all is very clear.
Perha s at this point it is time
to drop i the metaphor, since
otherwise I will have to put
three towers with two spires
each on top of the four wings
of the castle, and while I am
sure Boulding, who sometimes
calls himself a frustrated archi-
tect, could design such a castle,
the visualization is getting a
little too much for me.)
Kenneth Boulding is basically
an economist who has always
interpreted economics broadly,
and has found more and more
ways as time went on to use
the tools of his discipline in
an aly zin g other areas of

thought, and reciprocally to ap-
ply insights from other disci-
plines to economics. Hg thinks
of the world of knowledge as the
"Republic of Mind" and worries
about the frontiers and trade
barriers between disciplines.
"Specialization has outrun
Trade (in the market of the
intellect) .. . and the Repub-
lic of Learning is breaking
up into isolated subcultures...
One wonders sometimes if
science will not grind to a
stop in an assemblage of wall-
ed-in hermits, each mumbling
to himself words in a private
language that only he can un-
derstand." (p. 85)
Thus he has been led to explore
and integrate -foreign intellec-
tual provinces, both by a sense
of the need to break down walls
and by his tremendous gift of
seeing unlikely likeness. This
takes him at a leap across
chasms of disparity, and brings

to his writing its birthday-pres-
ent quality of continual happy
For example, shifting images
from physical, biological, and
social systems appear in his
concept of death as a "system
break" or a "semi-permeable
boundary," or of his compari-
sons of a flame, a river, and a
university as similar "open sys-
tems" where the role occupants
change but the system goes on,
taking in an excreting mole-
cules, water drops, or students.
Social machinery is applied at
different levels of magnitude in
the passage,
"The political organization
of the world is bankrupt. It is
as obsolete as the sword. Un-
fortunately, we have no social
institutions for bankrupting it
decently and quietly .. ." (p.
Perhaps one of the wildest
stretches of imagination occurs
in his description of the gravi-
meter. If, he suggests, the phys-
ical world were as difficult to
predict as social systems are,
with the gravitational constant
changing as rapidly as do such
vital quantities as the price level
or the range of the deadly mis-
"we would literally never
know how to get out of bed.
On Monday we fly through
the window and Tuesday we
would crack our head on the
floor . . . we would have to
have a gravimeter by the bed-
side to tell us before we even
got up whether to make a des-'
perate leap or a gentle move-
ment .. . We desperately need
a s6cial systems equivalent of
the graivmeter by the bed-
side." (p. 107-108)
And for pure reading joy, try
on "square person in a round
role," "wallpaper s y s t e m s,"
"Pinocchio principle," the ma-
croeconomic world as "a Won-
derland full of widow's cruses
and Danai'd jars," or rival
philosophies of history as "an
egg theory of hens or a hen
theory of eggs.
For those interested in the
dynamic development of Bould-
ing's thought (the "movie" as-
pect of the pitcure), we may
trace through these essays one
or two examples. The image of
"society as a pond"-the appli-
cation of ecological analysis to
social systems-occurs in the
very first essay, written in 1948.
Here the populations in equili-
brium are described as:
"Baptist churches, post of-
fices. gas stations, families
counties, states, wheat farm-
ers, chickens, and so on, which
..exhibit complex coopera-
tive and competetive relations
one with another." (p. 8)
The same image occurs from
time to time (e.g. in 1961, p.
242), but comes to a much fuller
development in the 1966 essay.
"The Economics of the Com-
ing Spaceship Earth" (p. 275),
in which this "systems" think-
ing becomes more than a pool
of analysis for the social world
and is applied to the total earth
ecology. Here the social is com-
bined with the biological and
physical-chemical as interact-
ing systems, pressing to the
now - familiar conclusion that
the only way man can survive is
by recycling earth's resources
after use instead of continuing
to exhaust her mines and pol-
lute her reservoirs.
Another developmental stage
of Boulding's thinking is caught
here in two essays written three
months apart. A good summary
of his concept of the th re e
"social genes" or organizers of
society, the threat system, ex-
change system, and integrative
system, is given in the 1965
essay, "Economic Libertarian-

ism," (pp. 43 - 45). But the
moment of birth for this idea
in its present form seems to
have been between December,
1961, when he presented t h e
paper "The Relations of Eco-
nomic, Political, and S o c i a 1
Systems," (p. 98) and March,
1962, when he gave the lecture
"Ethics and Business: An Eco-
nomist's View" (p. 227). In the
first of these he identifies four
sub-systems of the social sys-
tem as population, exchange,
threat, and learning systems,
and then rather as an after-
thought adds something he de-
scribes but does not name ex-
cept tentatively as "love sys-
tem." But by the second mo-
ment in time represented here,
his concept of "social organizer"
has pared the five to three,
leaving population as an aspect
of almost any system, and the
learning process as a major
force in evolution, but describ-

ing the three social organizers in
essentially the same terms they
have held to in his writings
ever since: the threat system
a negative-sum game, and the
integrative system based on
identification with another per-
son or group, resulting in giv-
ing without tangible returns.
Three major elements began
to emerge as basically important
to Kenneth Boulding, as my
reading led from one article to
another. These might be called
knowledge, organization, a n d
man's connections with v au e.
In a way they have an equival-
ence for him: high-level organ-
ization is a value; knowledge has
a high value; knowledge is a
kind of high-level organization;'
and valuation as an activity
(using knowledge) is essential.
Each has a parallel concept
which Boulding describes in his
preface as one of the major
dimensions of his political phil-
osophy: Freedom (toward
which, for Boulding, knowledge
is the means), Progress (of
which organization is the direc-
tion , and Justice (which rests
on valuing). And each includes
a number of other concepts
which also interplay, with equi-
valences across the element-
boundaries. It is a fairly com-
plex picture, hard to present
in the linear dimension of
words, and perhaps better vis-
ualized as a three-dimensional
pyramid, each side of which has
interfaces with each of the
other sides, the base of which is
the political philosophy and the
apex of which is the learning
of community.
We begin with know ledge, in
many w~ays, I am conv inced,
Boulding's first love. It w~as
know ledge, after all, gained in
long hard hours of study. that
took him up the scholarship-
built rungs of the educational
ladder; it is knowledge, plus wit,
that takes him now from lecture
to lecture and book to book.
But besides knowledge being his
bread and butter, he carries
everywhere with him a lasting
deep curiosity about the world,.
symbolized by the magnifying
glass always in his pocket, used
for looking at everything more
closely. Knowledge is the key,
for hin, to breaking out of the
chain of necessity, to havng an
accurate enough image of the
world and of possible future al-
ternatives so that man can make
a viable choice among those fu-
tures. This applies both to in-
dividuals and to society.
dFreedom, if I may be pardon-
is power, law, and understand-
ing, and the greatest of these
Knowledge and capital are in
many ways equivalent: capital
is described as frozen k n a w -
ledge, and knowledge as the
capital structuire of information.
Knowledge, like capital, is a
source of power:
"It is not the noisy revolu-
tions of polities but the silent
revolutions of skill that change
the course of man's destiny."
The striking observation is
also made that knowledge does
intobeythe glawestof consea
mton ta ei , w en t i s s e ita
is not diminished and the shar-

er of knowledge still keeps what
he had and in fact it often

grows in the sharing. W h i 1e
Boulding emphasizes the need
for the constant infusion of
knowledge by value, and fully
recognizes the Orwellian dangers
of knowledge without such val-
ue-criticisms, he insists "there
is no way of uneating the Ap-
ple" - only by nuclear destruc-
tion could the accumulation of
knowledge be stopped.
Knowledge is, in fact, anti-
entropic, like the biological and
social evolutionary process -
the building up of more and
m o r e improbable structures.
"Evolution builds increasingly
complex c a s t 1 e s." Knowledge
can even be thought of as the
basis of evolution, as more com-
plicated organisms develop more
c o m p 1 e x information system's
and feedback mechanisms, to
the point where (Boulding ar-
gues) social systems now have
to become self-conscious and
develop a learning process (in-
formation gathering and feed-
back mechanisms) in order to
survive in this present era of
very rapid system change.
But we have spilled over into
organization. There is an inter-
esting parallel thinking in this
area, between economic develop-
ment or progress and evolution-
ary development of more highly
organized structures. Boulding
equates production with more
improbable 'structures, and con-
sumption with entropy (as any-
one will agree who has seen an
exquisitely decorated three-lay-
er cake devoured by a group of
guests). Economic progress, in
his analysis, depends on an ex-
cess of production over con-
sumption; that is, accumulation
of capital. Since production
rests on knowledge, and capital
represents "frozen knowledge"-
that is, knowledge in tangible,
material form-the educational
process becomes crucial in eco-
nomic development.
Knowledge is crucial to organ-
ization. value is crucial to
knowledge-but organization,. in
its progress-form, is crucialto
value. Boulding makes the not
altogether palatable statement
that we have to have riches to
have justice. It is'his conclusion
that only when there is some-
thing left over to reinvest in the
economic prodess can it operate
at a level to benefit all. We
cannot solve the problem of
poverty by redistributing from
the rich to the poor, but only by
making everyone richer and the
poor productive. The modestly
expanding economy, with oppor-
tunities and flexibility (based
on the margin of accumulation)
presents the alternatives that
make freedom and justice pos-
Economic justice, of course.
is not the only kind of justice,
nor is justice the only concept
on the "value" side of the pyra-
mid, Here we deal with man as
a value and with man as a
valuer. There is a foundational
conviction that people must be
treated as ends, not means
(most forcefully presented in
the second selection, on the
Manpower concept). The learn-
ing of community with all man-
kind, "the great moral arrow
that gives meaning and direc-
tion to human history," is at
the heart of Boulding's goals.
He operationalizes man's an-
cient dream of peace with an
"information system feeding in-
to adaptive conflict control"
and describes its hopeful
achievement as "that key water-
shed in which the international
Today's writers.. ..
Cynthia Ierman, doctoral
student in American Studies,
is working on a dissertation
about Kenneth Boulding.
Robert White, a graduate
student, recently took time off

to devote to his hobby of breed-
ing Tyrolian sheepdogs.

system passes from a condition
of unstable peace, albeit with
enclaves of stable peace, into
one in which stable peace be-
comes a property of the general
system." And there occurs again
and again a reference to some-
thing more, something surpris-
ing, something perhaps divine,
operating through and beyond
all. The prophets are seen as the
great innovators, in economic
life as in social inventions and
religious insights, who shake a
static society into the next step
of a dynamic evolution. The fu-
ture is never predictable (evo-
lution is the growth, after all,
of improbable structures);
knowledge will keep growing in
ways we cannot guess; random-
ness is an important element in
the universe. "The love of God
escapes both the testtube and
the formula." And the world, no
matter how much we pin it
down, refuses to be enclosed:.
"the bulging and slatternly
corpus of knowledge obstinately
refuses to fit the neat corsets
of the system builders;" reality
is always a "great multidimen-
sional splodge."
Economics, says Boulding, in-
troduces value and humility
into the sciences. Through its
study of the ranking of choices,
"Economics, grubbing around
at the roots of the tree of
knowledge, brings up insights
within the framework of its
narrow world which are of
the same stuff as the brave
questions which make the fine
flowers of ethics, philosophy,
and religion." (p.219)
Boulding is a social scientist
and a social philosopher. In his
person he balances the economic
and the prophetic, the need for
control and ' the drive for free-
dom, the scientist and the poet.

His keen, wide-ranging mind
balances the concepts of stock
and flow, homeostasis and eco-
logical succession, the closed
system of society as a pond
against the open system of the
frontier, the spaceman economy
against the cowboy economy.
Yet "somewhere," as he says on
page 139, "lurking in the wings
of this whole argument is, of
course, the whole problem of
value." Somewhere lurking in
the wings is always the problem
of value, and Boulding leads it
out and looks it over and gives
it its place on the stage. Every
social scientist makes his value
judgments, but not all are as
specific a b o u t acknowledging
them as Boulding. For him,
grubbing around at the roots or
looking up at the crown of the
tree of knowledge, the value of
man as knower, but never
knower of all, is the beginning
and ending of the search.
Boulding the thinker, Bould-
ing the wit, Boulding the social
conscience: all can be taken, in
any order, in doses as small or
large as you like, in Beyond


201 S. MAIN Mon. b Fri. 'tit 8:25


Breakfast books

Harold Gray, A R F! THE
1945, Arlington House, $14.95.
.George Horrace Lorimer, LET-
erbridge & Dienstfrey, $5.95.
These two seemingly dispar-
ate works, Arf and Letters from
a Self-made Merchant to h i s
Son are, in fact, one and the
same. Or, to put it another way,
they are as inextricably bound
*together as motherhood f and
apple pie, The link between
them may be seen as a kind of
cosmic umbilical cord which
constantly pumps nourishment
to the thirsty pulp magazine
audience -in American society..
When the front pages of Amer-'
#ica's newspapers get dirtied by
war, corruption, a n d scandal,
readers can always turn to eith-
er the comic strips (Arf) or ser-
ialized success stories (Letters)
to reafirm their beliefs in the
ultimate salvation granted those
who keep their noses clean and
*don't tamper with the "invisi-
ble hand" of free enterprise. It
is, in other words, that literary
pablum which so skillfully as-
suages guilt and obscures the
objective causes of social in-
The introduction to Arf apt-,
Ay notes t h a t "In millions of
American homes 'Little Orphan
Annie' is as indispensable to
the breakfast table as coffee
and cereal." And, what is all
the more remarkable, is Annie's
apparent indestructability. For
in spite of the fact her creator,
Iarold Gray, died in 1968, she
continues today bravely fighting
for honor and industry under
the surrogate guidance of vet-
eran cartoonist Philip Blais-
Her dedication, perhaps, is
best put in Gray's own words.
Annie is tougher than hell
with a heart of gold and a
fast left, who can take care
of herself because she has to.
She's controversial, there's no
question about that. But I
keep her on the side of moth-
erhood, honesty, and decency.
Letters from a Self-made
Merchant offers another kind of
pablum. It still goes well with

breakfast coffee, but it is turn-
of-the-century variety a n d is
more than amply spiced with
"get up and go." That the Let-
ters were popular among t h e
breakfast crowd is attested by
the fact that upon their initial
appearance in 1901, the 'bound
volume' sold over 300,000 cop-
ies and was said to have been
more widely circulated on an in-
ternational level than any other
American book to th a t time
with t h e exception of Uncle
Tom's Cabin.
Originally written in serializ-
ed form by George Horace Lori-
mer of The Saturday Evening
Post, the Letters offered the ad-
v i c e of a successful Chicago
pork merchant to his son.-Lori-
mer, who has been called "the
Henry Ford of American litera-
ture," had the knack of convey-
ing a message intimately attun-
ed to the needs and frustrations
of the young "man-on-the-
make" in e a r I y 20th Century
America. As Lorimer wrote to
his fictional son, "This is a fine
country we're running . . . but
it's a pity that it doesn't raise
more hogs. It seems to take a
farmer a long time to learn
,that the best way to sell his
corn is on the hoof."
That the reasons for repub-
lishing such nostalgic "declara-
tions of independence" as Arf
and Letters stem from diverse
impulses may be understood
from a glance at the introduc-
tions. In his introduction to
Arf, All Capp declares "If Gray's
attitudes were old-fashioned in
his time, so too, then are per-
sonal dignity, manners, and re-
spect for law today. And now
ask yourself this: Can any new
society be built without those
attitudes?" And, as if in reply,
then, Lawrence Grauman, Jr.
and Robert Fogarty suggest in
their introduction to Letters
that if the new radicals of the
counter culture "are serious they
might begin by reading Lorimer,
for his is the culture they will
have to counter."
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