Cover image for Ecodynamics : a new theory of societal evolution
Ecodynamics : a new theory of societal evolution
Boulding, Kenneth E. (Kenneth Ewart), 1910-1993.
Publication Information:
Beverly Hills : Sage Publications, [1978]

Physical Description:
368 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm.
General Note:
Includes index.

Format :

On Order



Since its publication in 1979, this classic exposition of how society evolves has commanded the attention of both readers and reviewers. In 1981 a new paperback edition was printed, in order to make the book more widely available.

′...the book is an astonishing triumph. For those of us who find something lacking in the narrow precision of our professional work, merely to undertake a synthesis of such breadth is an act of considerable courage. To have succeeded to the extent that Boulding has is an achievement on a scale difficult to contemplate.′ -- Contemporary Psychology, September 1979

′Boulding′s masterwork is full of wise and provocative insights into an amazing range of phenomena. It is one of those books that will likely have a permanent impact on the world view of any thinking person who reads it.′ -- Winterthur Portfolio, Winter 1979

′It is an attempt by a brilliant economist to develop a comprehensive analytical framework for the study of physical, biological, and societal systems. No review can do adequate justice to this framework. But, to put it in a nutshell, he attempts a synthesis of economics and the theory of biological ecosystem analysis...deserves wide reading.′ -- International Journal of Comparative Sociology, Vol 24 No 1-2, 1983


This short monograph lays out the theory behind, and techniques for, using dynamic modelling, taking the reader through a series of increasingly complex models. At each step, examples are used to explain the process, and also to clarify specific applications of difference equation models in the social sciences.

′It is a good example of classical mathematical model building and I may well use it as a text for the course on that subject in our MSc on Quantitative Methods in the Behavioural general it is to be recommended.′ -- Bethlem and Maudsley Gazette, Vol 31 No 2, 1983

Author Notes

Kenneth Boulding is one of the most prolific, provocative, and highly regarded economists of our time. Born in England in 1910, he received his M.A. at Oxford University and moved to the United States in 1937. Since then he has authored or coauthored over two dozen books and has taught at a number of leading universities. Currently he is affiliated with the Institute of Behavioral Science at the University of Colorado.

In an early essay, "Is Economics Necessary?" Boulding argued that economics is important not merely as it relates to the marketplace but because it is a part of virtually all other human activities. Many of his works are extensions of this theme. As a result, his writings cover an astonishing variety of topics, including ecology and religion. His pioneering efforts to apply economic concepts to the areas of social conflict, peace, and disarmament have established him as one of the founders of the school of conflict resolution.

Boulding's early work, Economic Analysis (1941), is regarded as a classic overview and survey of the field. Many of his other works, including A Reconstruction of Economics (1950) and Conflict and Defense (1962), were once required reading for graduate students in economics. Others, such as Beyond Economics (1968) and Economics as a Science (1970), are collections of shorter essays covering such diverse topics as politics, social justice, and ethical problems, and are intended for a broader audience. The Image (1956), a theory of human behavior based on perceptions of the world, has received critical praise from all quarters and is perhaps his best-known work among noneconomists.

Boulding has received nearly every significant award or recognition in the field of economics, and he has been the recipient of 25 honorary degrees from universities around the world. In his spare moments, he enjoys poetry, sketching, and watercolor painting.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Table of Contents

Introduction: What this Book Is All About
The Universe as a Stereo Movie
Physical Dynamics and Evolution
Population Dynamics
Ecological Dynamics
Biological Evolution
Societal Evolution: The General Pattern
The Threat System
Exchange as a Social Organizer
The Integrative System
An Evolutionary Interpretation of History
Power in Society
Dialectics and Evolution
Series Editor's Introductionp. 5
Acknowledgmentsp. 6
1. Dynamic Models and Social Changep. 7
Difference Equations as Representations of Changep. 7
Synchronic versus Diachronic Changep. 9
Dynamic Models and Other Models of Changep. 9
The Structure of the Presentationp. 10
2. First-Order Linear Difference Equation Models: A Model of the Mobilization Processp. 10
A First Dynamic Model: The Gain/Loss Formulationp. 11
Difference Equations as Representative of Changep. 14
Solutions to First-Order Difference Equationsp. 15
Equilibrium and Stabilityp. 17
Substantive Applicationsp. 20
Model Estimationp. 22
Summaryp. 28
3. First-Order Nonlinear Difference Equations: Processes of Social Diffusionp. 29
Mobilization Through Social Interactionp. 29
A Diffusion Modelp. 30
Parameter Restrictionsp. 35
Model Estimationp. 36
An Empirical Examplep. 37
Analyzing the Modelp. 38
Equilibrium Analysisp. 39
Local Stability Analysisp. 40
Global Stability Analysis for Quadratic Recursive Formsp. 42
Summaryp. 44
4. Linear Systems and Higher-Order Equations: Arms Races and Feedback Processesp. 45
Higher-Order Modelsp. 45
The Richardson Arms Race Modelp. 46
Arriving at a Second-Order Reduced Formp. 47
Putting the Arms Race in Matrix Notationp. 48
Finding the System Equilibriump. 49
Solutions for Higher-Order Systemsp. 50
Putting the Solution to Workp. 54
Stability Conditionsp. 55
The Geometry of Stability: An Alternative Approachp. 56
Feedback Time Delay as a Destabilizing Influencep. 60
Summaryp. 63
5. Nonlinear Dynamic Systems: Budgetary Competitionp. 65
Incrementalismp. 65
Competitive Models of Budgetary Interactionp. 66
The Logic of Competitionp. 68
Model 1 Unrestrained Budgetary Competitionp. 70
Model 2 Restricted Competitionp. 80
Conclusionp. 81
6. Dynamic Modeling as a Scientific Enterprisep. 81
An Overview of Model Structurep. 82
Multiple and Interdependent System Statesp. 83
Structural Parametersp. 64
System Propertiesp. 85
Steps in Model Developmentp. 85
Appendixp. 87
Notesp. 91
Referencesp. 92

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