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The Evolution of Georgescu-Roegen's Bioeconomics

John Gowdy () and Susan Mesner

Review of Social Economy, 1998, vol. 56, issue 2, 136-156

Abstract: Georgescu-Roegen's work is usually divided into two categories, his earlier work on consumer and production theory and his later concern with entropy and bioeconomics beginning with his 1966 introductory essay to his collected theoretical papers published in the volume Analytical Economics. Most economists usually praise his earlier work on pure theory and ignore his later work which is highly critical of neoclassical economics. Those economists sympathetic to his later work usually take the position that he “saw the light” and gave up neoclassical theory some time in the 1960s to turn his attention to the issues of resource scarcity and social institutions. It is argued here that there is an unbroken path running from Georgescu's work in pure theory in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, through his writings on peasant economies in the 1960s, leading to his preoccupation with entropy and bioeconomics in the last 25 years of his life. That common thread is his preoccupation with “valuation.” The choices our species makes about resource use and the distribution of economic output depends upon our valuation framework. Georgescu-Roegen's work begins in the 1930s with a critical examination of the difficulties with the hedonistic valuation framework of neoclassical economics, moves in the 1960s to the conflict between social and hedonistic valuation, and culminates in the 1970s and 1980s with his examination of the conflict between individual, social, and environmental values. This paper traces the evolution of Georgescu-Roegen's thought about valuation and the environmental and social policy recommendations which arise out of his bioeconomic framework.

Keywords: agrarian economics; bioeconomics; entropy; Georgescu-Roegen; sustainability; utility theory; valuation (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 1998
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DOI: 10.1080/00346769800000016

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Handle: RePEc:taf:rsocec:v:56:y:1998:i:2:p:136-156