Economics as Science: Physical or Biophysical?



Economies exist independently of how we perceive or choose to study them. For more or less accidental reasons we have chosen over the past 100 years to consider and study economics as a social science. Before the late nineteenth century economists were more likely to ask “Where does wealth come from?” than are most mainstream economists today. In general, these earlier economists started their economic analysis with the natural biophysical world, probably simply because they had common sense but also because they deemed inadequate the perspective of earlier mercantilists who had emphasized sources of wealth as “treasure” (e.g., precious metals) derived from mining, trade, or plunder. In the first formal school of economics, the French Physiocrats looked to the biophysical world and especially land as the basis for generating wealth (e.g., Quesnay, 1758; see Christensen [1, 2]) focused on agriculture.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Environmental & Forest Biology and Graduate Program in Environmental Science College of Environmental Science & ForestryState University of New YorkSyracuseUSA
  2. 2.Social SciencesWells CollegeAuroraUSA

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